So I had a student unwittingly tell me today that she is convinced that her SAT score from December will be significantly higher because her SAT tutor also took the December SAT and they compared their performance. Since my student is not the sharpest tack, I would assume the worst. But when I pointed out that one, her tutor should not be taking the test, two, her tutor is not allowed to take the test and three, that this very act is one of the reasons why October, November, and December scores are being delayed, she looked at me with the deer in headlights “I don’t get the connection" kind of look. Were she a sharper tack, I might be enormously concerned that untoward behavior was involved.
I point back to my musing from the November test. My frustration with the whole situation makes me want to scream. At the same time I, like many of my peers, are receiving emails from universities boasting the increase in applications for early rounds and I have to wonder, how many students are getting away with pumped up scores to get in to schools? I know my colleague and good friend Clay will attest, testing is vigorously ensured and security paramount. But my point is this lets say that a student is coached to miss a certain number of questions to not raise their score to something perceived to be outlandish. I know students who know exactly how many questions they missed. 1+1=2. It does not seem out of the realm of possibility that a student could answer just enough to score higher but not enough to get flagged.
Back to my student. She wrote me the other day saying she wanted to apply to X university, one significantly beyond her academic and linguistic ability. When asked why, her reply was that her scores were going to be higher. When I pointed out that her grades will not satisfy X University and that her current SAT scores are abysmal, (yes I used that term), she just looked at me and smiled. I know that part of the reason for this request comes from mother.
And therein lies the main issue. A test based culture; focusing on the test regardless of the other criteria for acceptance such as grades, essays, leadership, etc., all which play a role in admission. Schools do not help by continuing to focus on ranking rather than stating the value of learning and outcomes at their institutions or by continuing to use a system that has not kept up with technology (CD players anyone, Internet and WeChat).
I know that huge majority of students do not cheat, but what is it that we are really engaged in? How many counselors work with students to find a fit school only to come back to the same list for virtually every student? With stars in their eyes, (did I say I have students, nor they parents nor their parents, understand the vast depth of university offerings in the US and the world. But their myopic viewpoint is focused on testing and ranking.
Enough from me I feel much better. Sort of.
Hamilton Gregg is the founder of International Educational Consulting and has worked in education since 1985. He helps students and their families understand their personal and educational needs and find the right school to meet their requirements. If you are a student or parent who would like to ask Gregg a question on our blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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