Friday, June 4, 2010

Passing on Tests

My test results came back. I am negative for Lyme's Disease and other tick-related illness. This came as a surprise to some of my friends who have had Lyme's and say my symptoms were similar. The doctor said it is possible we caught it before it actually registered as Lyme, so maybe it was, but the tests say no. At any rate, I am feeling better.

Speaking of tests, Marina just had a big one recently. She took the placement exams for the nearby community college. High scores in English language. Her essay hasn't been graded yet. Low scores in math and algebra, which really wasn't a surprise to me, but it did get me thinking.

You see, I know what my daughter is capable of. People talk to her and are impressed. She draws upon a well of knowledge in conversation and easily shifts from one topic to the next. There is nothing she cannot do if she sets her mind to it. But she managed to inherit my ability to panic in the face of a test.

What is it about our society that it holds the exam up as the one true measure of aptitude? It is such an arbitrary tool. I consider myself adept at composing a coherent essay, but I would be hard pressed to do it in one hour, hand-written. At best, I would finish it, but it wouldn't be my best work. I like to write, then read over, then mull over, then add or remove as inspiration comes to me. The computer has become my best favorite tool because I can type faster than I can write. And the word processor allows me to be creative in editing. I am the queen of cut and paste. Marina used a computer for the test, so why did she need to write out the essay by hand? Are they planning some handwriting analysis along with a critique of her essay?

As for the math test, I take responsibility for not regularly having her refresh her memory about algebra. That was a dark year in our lives and I was happy to leave it behind as I mended her lost confidence in math. Geometry was much easier for her. Perhaps if I had saved algebra for this year she would have been able to get through it. Or perhaps she would have blanked anyway. Who knows? The first time I gave her a timed test, she did terribly. Just the idea that she was being timed made her panic and guess her way through it. The following year I took great pains to keep her calm and she spent more time reviewing, which resulted in a higher score. Hmmm...I suddenly realize I was teaching to the test.

It would be wonderful if we realized that people are individuals, not some sort of Borg collective. We are all creative and we should use our gifts to the betterment of our society. That creativity presents itself as our own unique set of talents and perspective on the world. Some of these talents test well, some do not. How sad that so many have to set aside their natural gifts for the sake of passing a test. Sadder still that an entire industry has grown for the sake of passing these tests. No wonder we can't figure out how to plug an oil leak. We have given up our potential in favor of a passing grade. The question is, when will we learn?

Marina is beginning a new journey. I have no idea how it will turn out, but I hope she always maintains her love of learning and her creative spirit. I think that would be much more fulfilling than a perfect score on a test.


call*me*kate said...

I agree. I know my kids are weak at testing because I do not test them (shhh, don't tell!) As my oldest is nearly 15, I think I better begin preparing him for such a thing. Anyway ... I've been praying for you all week (and worrying about you, too!) I'm glad to hear you are feeling better. When you wrote you had a high fever and stiff neck, I was concerned about meningitis - I think those are two of the symptoms. But since you are recovering, it's obviously not that (thankfully!) I hope you continue to completely heal and soon.

Hope your weekend is a good one!

Jessica said...

I took our community college entrance exam and didn't do well on their math either. The thing is I actually got high grades in my correspondence high school, but they aren't timed so I had more time to think things through. It is unfortunate that there is so much emphasis put on timed tests. In college I always did well on assignments, projects, essays, etc. but the timed tests were still a struggle leaving my grades lower than they would be otherwise. Biology just about killed me when my assignments were all A, showing that I understood it, but the tests were not. Because of this I will be doing quite a bit of timed practice with my kids as they get older. Just to keep them fresh on HOW to do it. But I agree with you, it really is not a good measure on whether or not the content has been grasped.

Stephanie said...

"It would be wonderful if we realized that people are individuals, not some sort of Borg collective" ... from your lips to God's ears.

I am thankful that your Lyme test came back negative. My dad is in the midst of a Lyme scare; it's an awful illness.

I hope Marina is accepted at the college!

Anonymous said...

Tina, I'm happy to hear that you're feeling better. Marina, It's easy to blank on a test, especially when being timed and especially if it's math! I only remember algebra if I've studied very hard right before the test.
Love, Aunt Linda

Anonymous said...

Timed tests. That's what i'm shying away from,but I must do it:Mortgage originator license test. Thanks to Countrywide and its
beneficiary and benefactor Senator Dod, I must take and pass a license test to do what I've been doing for 15 years. How crazy is that? Yet, I got a BA and @ MAs without ever taking a test. In oral tests, I had no problem; in writen tests, my dyslexia kiked in. Fish oil has worked wonders in improving that condition. So worry not about tests, Marina. Where there's a will, there are infinite ways!
Good to hear you're fine. Love you.

Mama Teaching 2 said...

So glad the tests came back well for you...

I am ready to follow that big girl of yours on her next educational journey. I stove up on tests as well. :)

Inner Elder said...

I was great at taking tests and long ago discovered that test taking is a separate skill that has nothing to do with the subject matter. In HS my friends and I would go over the Barrons Regents Exams a few days before the test. We discovered that the same questions appeared on a cycle - how cool is that! In college I regularly crammed to take tests - multiple choice were my favorites. My memory in those days was such that I retained the "cramming" for the test. So you're right. Tests are not a good measure if taken alone, which is why grades are based on a combination of things. Anyway, Marina is top notch in my book any day and I'm sure she'll enjoy her new experience. Love Ya! Mom

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