Saturday, March 14, 2009

SATS on Sat

During the school year, our school administers the SAT about every 6 weeks. When I was younger and in desperate need of extra cash, I jumped on the opportunity to proctor. There followed a period when the test administrator could never find any proctors, so I continued to help out. Now, it's become a habit. A few hours on a Saturday morning - you drink your coffee, read the newspaper, and collect $98. A few of those Saturdays, and you've paid for some Red Sox tickets!

Usually, I administer the subject test - what used to be called the "Achievement Tests." I like that gig - I'm usually out of the building pretty quickly. However, in March the Subject Tests are not offered - so today I proctored the "Reasoning Tests" instead. As I watched these high school juniors work on their tests, I was suddenly glad not to be a high schooler any more. Imagine reporting to school at 7:45 am on a cold rainy Saturday morning, and sitting in a classroom filling in little bubbles until nearly 1 pm. The first test is an essay - they must write an essay based on an esoteric quote for 25 minutes. That's followed by 5 more 25 minute tests on math or English - with some random 5 minute breaks scattered in there. The final three sections are 20 minutes, 20 minutes and 10 minutes. As you can imagine, by test number 7, you're starting to see some glazed eyes. By test number 10 - the ten minute test - most are tossing down their pencils after 2 or 3 minutes.

The question you have to ask is: how well do these test assess ability? Should someone's high school career be summed up in one morning's test? Should someone's admission to a college hinge on this one morning?

Some colleges have jettisoned the SAT as the sole factor in admission. Many more are making noises that they might follow suit. I think they should look at the whole picture. What extra curriculars does the student have? What makes them special? Maybe the student only had an average score, but spent their weekends volunteering at Habitat or for the Food Bank - does that make them a better candidate?

I am a product of the public school system, and was happy with the education I received. Yet I remember my college guidance sessions - when the councilor suggested I look at nursing or teaching, which he saw as perfect careers for a woman. And I look at how the councilors at my independent school work with each student, discerning their interests and calling colleges to "sell" that student. Yes, that's what our parents pay for - but shouldn't every candidate for college admission get that consideration?

And, randomly, what are the odds that out of 15 students, I would have TWO named Jasmine?? Clearly, we have some lovers of Disney's "Aladdin" around here!



Blogger Kraxpelax said...

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7:45 PM  
Blogger Ted D said...

Beth, Angie did a ton of these when she was teaching before the kids came along so I can sort of feel your pain. But WOOT for the $98 dollars!

9:20 AM  
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