Musings · My Life · teaching

The big, bad ACT

(Thanks writintime for a topic idea!)

The ACT is in two weeks and all my juniors will be taking it.  And I feel sorry for them.

When I took the ACT 17 years ago, it just didn’t seem like that big of a deal.  I signed up for it, I took it, I got my results.  I really didn’t know anything about the test, I don’t remember studying or preparing, and I don’t remember being stressed about it (or maybe I just blocked it all out).

But these kids are stressed; their anxiety levels are sky high.  Many define themselves by the two-digit number on their test results.

That’s a problem.  A big, big problem.

Today my students and I discussed the ACT: their thoughts, concerns, goals, anxiety.  For the most part, all of my students feel stressed because of the ACT.  The pressure is high. For some, the pressure comes from their parents, for others the pressure is self-applied, and for many the pressure exists because that number is tied to the possibility of a scholarship.

These kids are way more aware than I ever was. They know how much school costs, they know how important college is.  Put it together and they are anxious.  A lot rides on their test scores.

During our discussion of the ACT, we talked about whether or not the test should be used for admission to college. I was interested to hear what they all had to say about it.  Some could see the necessity of a “standardized” unit of measure, since they know that within a school the GPA can vary, even more so from one district to another.  Others felt the ACT was completely unfair, and should be replaced with things like interviews or more well-rounded evidence of a student’s character and work ethic.  We could all agree that if the ACT was going to stay, they could make changes to the time limit, or all schools should accept the “super score.”

In the education community, current buzzwords include “student (or learner) centered” and “makerspace” and “project based learning” (among a million others), but how does the ACT (and the other acronymn tests we give every year) fit into these ideas?

Simple: They don’t.

What message are we sending?  Essentially, because the ACT is so important for their futures, we are inadvertantly sending the message that they ARE that number.  That they SHOULD define themselves by their score.

The pressure is killing them, or at least not helping them.

Despite, we trudge on.  I teach my class with periodic ACT practice, and for the next two weeks we’ll do a couple extra prep sessions.  But I refuse to dedicate my entire class to ACT practice.  I refuse to give it the power over my class, my plans, my students, and our short, precious time.  I refuse to give my students the impression that this test is more important than reading, writing, speaking and learning together.

For the sake of the children, I just hope that some day our society will wake up and change its ways.

-We know far more about our students by their total application than we do from their tests. We prefer using the whole picture.-

(Side note: Erin Condren teacher planners are on sale for 25% off right now!! If you’re interested, here’s a referral link–if you use it, I get $10 off my next purchase.  Use it or don’t, but either way I highly recommend the EC planners!)

One thought on “The big, bad ACT

  1. Thanks for the post on the other end of the testing spectrum. It must be tough on the high school students and it is great that you give them a chance to vent. Nothing like a good vent to cool us down!

    Liked by 1 person

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