It happened again but this time to ACT. On Saturday, ACT tests in Korea and Hong Kong were cancelled due to compromised tests. It goes without saying now that more students from these two countries are focusing on ACT given the changes to the rSAT. It was only a matter of time before test prep companies focused their methods on the ACT. The question is, can a company like ACT handle this new attention? What actions will ACT now take to ensure security of materials? With their new bandwidth of test takers, can they handle these new pressures?
The real problem is testing. With delayed scores, cancelled tests and the uproar, the current climate affects every student from this part of the world. As mentioned in previous posts, it seems quite clear that test results from this part of the world have limited validity. This includes SSAT, SAT, ACT and TOEFL. Test prep has cornered the market and either by illicit means or not, invalidated any test score. Very few students choose not to employ test prep companies to help them “prepare” for these tests. While it is easy to come to the conclusion that a student who used test prep can memorize well, I seriously doubt whether a test score predicts academic performance on the level of critical and analytical thinking required for entry to boarding school or university.
But then there is the problem with the reports coming out of the University of Iowa, of companies that help students get through their undergraduate programs. What is most discouraging about all of this is that seemingly education is for sale, rather earned. When I started working in this area, the world was a much more complacent place. There was not the pressure to get into Ivy League schools to the extent it seems today. Sure, there was test prep, but families seemed more at ease with the value of education from a wider variety of schools. This is not just an Asian thing, it affects students everywhere and has created multi-million dollar industries to enhance a student’s look – from companies providing community service projects to essay writing to whatever it takes to “get in.”
To say the least, the ramifications of the trend the education system is moving toward discourage me. Even more worrisome are the college leaders who seemingly turn a blind eye to the issues confronting them, leaders who continue to push for higher test scores, creating new applications, allow agents to provide students to enhance enrollment numbers, the use of ranking, and on and on.
Several weeks ago I came to the conclusion that all is not well on the education front. Having worked in this field for over 30 years, it seems that the news only provides more discouraging information about the state of affairs. I also recognize and realize that the problem does not affect everyone. My concern is that the pendulum is moving in the wrong direction, and as it does so, it affects the students most. They have few alternatives and perceive the only way to be “successful” is to follow the trend.
Increasingly school counselors are also caught in the middle as the tidal wave of parents push for more, colleges look for more and the criteria for acceptance gets harder and harder for those select few schools deemed the Holy Grail of future success.
The other day during a conversation with a reporter, I was called a dinosaur with my antiquated views of admission. Both sadly and joyfully I nodded acceptance of this moniker. But I also realize that the dinosaurs of the admission world are slowly becoming extinct. The role of college counselor is changing. This can be seen directly with the advent of the Coalition application that cuts out the specific tasks of what counselors do. While I admit that the admission process is in drastic need of change, this move away from counselors, who know their students and work with them in close context and work to help them understand the value of education, has undermined everything we stand for and hope to achieve.
I jokingly, with an undertone of seriousness, tell my students that everything I teach them will get undone when they go home. While I know that there are a lot of people fighting the good fight to curb the trends we see, it is very much in the hands of leaders in admission to affect a course change back to being student centered. Unfortunately, the changes would leave the system in a new era. In a different world – schools would stop participating in ranking, go test optional, set specific academic expectations like the British, provide multiple options in the admission process like NYU, require Third Party interviews like IntialView, and be more specific in the qualifications for admission rather than stating the look at Holistic Review.
Idealistic? True! But something does need to change to radically alter the course we are currently on. Given the events of the last two years around testing and the more recent revelations of how some students are getting through university, I am wondering where the uproar is? If anything similar were to happen in the corporate world there would be a very different response at the injustices current practices seem to be taking. When will educators take and make a stand against these issues? Students are why we are supposedly working in this field, yet as counselors we are being incapacitated by the lofty leaders unaware, or at least not paying attention to what is happening in the trenches.