Testing, Testing, 1,2,3 Testing

About testing, I don’t have any problem with it, per se.  It really is just testing how smart you are and how good you are at taking tests, and I guess colleges feel that’s important. Check this out (by Jon Boeckenstedt, a real genius):


His conclusion:  The correlation between 8th grade scores and 12th grade scores for an individual student, controlling for all variables, is almost perfect (.9 r-squared correlation, or as Jon puts it, “Scientists would use the term “winner, winner, chicken dinner” when getting results like this.”)

So why even have testing senior year since the relative place of almost EVERY student remains almost exactly the same as it was in 8th grade.  And same with judging teachers or schools by scores.  Everyone progresses at a rate individual to them, not to the school’s.

My bigger problem with the SAT and ACT is that they promote something not really worth promoting in everyone:  advanced math skills.  They are USELESS for 95% of the population.  Why the hell are we working so hard to get EVERYONE able to do things that only 5% or less will ever need?

And the emphasis is really on computational math, not math understanding.  We had this great program at Montclair called Chicago Math, AKA Interactive Math.  It really taught kids how to think mathematically about the world around them.  The kids understood how to assess the validity of data, to recognize trends in information and to use skills and methods to solve problems they might encounter in the real world.  But the program was dropped because, here’s the crux, the kids in the program weren’t doing as well on the SAT as kids in more traditional, kill-and-drill math classes, despite that  the students had a deeper understanding of how they can practically use math reasoning (as well as applications) in their lives.

It is this kind of rote instruction that allows our students to take on huge credit card or student debt, to be taken in by fake news and to be unable to make sense of data when they see it.  They can solve equations with multiple variables, but can’t see when they’re being handed an pile of statistical BS.

It’s time to get off the Sputnik train and, except for students pursuing engineering or similar careers, start putting a greater emphasis on math which furthers ones understanding of the world and one’s ability to assess the validity of information that is presented, particularly data and statistics.  Math should be tied to civics (which should also be put back in every curriculum) and be something that really leads toward a more aware citizenry and electorate.

Something has gone terribly wrong with our educational system with decisions we, the citizens of this country, have made.  We have created a citizenry, just like the tests promote, who can demonstrate skills, but who are unable to understand, assess or thoughtfully act on information that affects their lives.  The cynic in me says that those in power politically and economically don’t want a questioning and thoughtful citizenry, just a highly “skilled” one to contribute to the work force.

Author: Scott White

I am a nationally recognized expert on college admissions, having worked in schools and colleges for 35 years. I have been regularly quoted in major publications including the NY Times, the LA Times, The Boston Globe, the Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly, Time Magazine and others. I am widely published on various aspects of the college admissions process and present at state and national conferences on a variety of college admissions related topics. I have worked in college admissions as well as independent day and boarding schools. The last 25 years I have worked in public schools, 14 as a school counselor and then as a Director of Guidance at elite, suburban public schools including Montclair High School, Westfield High School and Morristown High School. I am now an independent college counselor for SW College Consulting in Montclair. I can be contacted as swcollegeconsulting@gmail.com or 973-919-6798.

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