Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Marginalizing standardized tests: consequences for left-brainers

I'm no fan of standardized tests. Partly it's personal. I don't test well: speed and concentration elude me. Partly it's philosophical. No standardized test captures the intellectual skills I value most:  synthesizing data, connecting concepts, forging new ideas, shifting paradigms.

But, in today's world of subjective assessments and anti-left-brain biases, I'd much rather have my standardized test scores decide my admission to selective academic programs than my grades, teacher recommendations, and "character." Nor would I want the Gatekeepers that Be to factor in my extracurriculars:  like many left-brainers, I'm a narrowly focused introvert, engaging in just one or two hobbies at a time, none of them involving "leadership."

So it's with dismay that I read, in today's New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer, that:

1. Smith College and Wake Forest University have jumped on the anti-test bandwagon, eliminating SAT and ACT scores from their core admissions requirements. Like increasing numbers of colleges and universities, they will shift emphasis to grades, extracurricular activities, and, quoting the Times, "character and talent."

2. Pennsylvania wants its public schools to reduce the number of gifted students per teacher, and to use more than IQ scores to determine admission to gifted programs--where "more" typically means classroom work and teacher recommendations.

When grade school teachers downgrade introverts for failing to participate orally, math buffs for failing to show their work, and all-round smart kids for failing to complete, with proper zeal and alacrity, work that is far too easy for them, and when these students lack the resume of leadership roles touted by their extroverted counterparts, all they have are their standardized test scores...

However imperfectly these scores reflect their--and everyone else's-- intelligence. 

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