Testing our generation


As a human being, sitting in a PSAT testing room for hours–and trying to solidify my place in this meritocracy–is draining. All of the comments on the importance of the SAT and ACT scores swirl around my head, working me up into a tizzy. Then it hits me: This is just the practice.

Test stress is a subject I am all too familiar with.

Most recently, the test stress has gotten more intense: the season of real entrance exams has begun.

I understand counselors from both school and college preparatory organizations are working to help students during the testing season, but that’s just the problem: The score of a four-hour exam has been turned into a Hunger Games-style competition to get into the best schools.

But how does all of this pressure benefit us as students?

Frankly, it doesn’t. Looking at all traditional-style tests of multiple choice, etc., the overall usefulness of the teachings beforehand and the scores afterwards is lacking.

Though “soft skills” (thinking, writing, collaborating, etc.) can’t be accurately measured, scores and the regurgitation of facts will not help us when we need to work out a problem in the workplace or in an interesting dimension called real life. However, authentic assessments can best prepare us for post-graduation life.

Authentic assessments are evaluations based on more involvement with the students, keeping them engaged and understanding what their true strengths and weaknesses are. Authentic assessments allow for students and teachers alike to reach entirely different goals, goals that can be learned and used for a lifetime.

These “goals” consist of the ability to write, speak, synthesize and take part in discussions as well as debates.However, schools that focus only on traditional testing through standardized college entrance exams may be abandoning these abilities entirely. Not that traditional testing does no good at all, it is just that the focus is off what it should be: soft skills.

“We focus in schools on that which is quantifiable when, I think, our real value as places of learning rests in that messy stuff that isn’t,” Richardson wrote in his post.

The value is the real world application of the skills we learn in school. Very few of the “skills” we learn from traditional assessments will realistically give us the tools to function and prosper in today’s modern society; therefore, the stress students experience during traditional assessments is utterly ludicrous.

To truly be successful in modern American society, citizens need to be able to do more than memorize and regurgitate information. Leadership, responsibility and all the “immeasurable” qualities are what colleges should be looking for, not the less important, rudimentary skills evaluated by traditional college entrance exams.


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