3/29/17 National Test Day: Please Read

Hello, this is Liz. Maggie is taking the day off.

Most adults are sweating the April tax deadline. However, many kids are dreading April 8, “National Test Day”. In case you’re not familiar with this, on this date, high school entrance exams, the ACT, SAT, and other standardized tests are held throughout the nation.

My son James is taking the ACT with the writing portion on April 8.

I’d like to say, I’m not a huge fan of standardized tests. I understand perfectly that schools need a benchmark, but frankly, not all kids are great test-takers, and many students miss a great fit with their desired school because of standardized testing. One can’t show creativity and passion while filling in an oval. I’d like to talk about this a minute, and I apologize if this gets a little long. But if you only read one blog of mine this year, I beg you, let this one be it.

I’ve got three kids: Mike, my inherited son from Jim’s first marriage; my son Erik, and my son James. Each child is wildly different than the other. They’ve all had different approaches and attitudes about school. Imagine three different roller coasters, and you’ll have an idea!

Mike, quick on his feet and charming, was an outstanding test taker. He scored very high on the ACT. Mike loved high school sports and played on a couple of different teams, and was very good at the social aspect of school. Mike had a lot of friends and had a regular “posse” he hung around with. Although he was a great test taker, he found that a middle-of-the road curriculum suited him best for academics. Mike’s strengths were found in his social skills and ability to make and keep friends. After high school, he landed a commissioned sales job that suited his skill set very well, and today, he is happy with his career and is successful in his profession.

Erik, somewhat moody and wildly creative, was not a good test taker. He scored about average on the ACT. Erik had a terrible high school experience and hated sports. He excelled in Art, however, and flourished in any creative class that was thrown at him. From watercolors and calligraphy to pottery, he was truly in his element. After high school, Erik decided to pursue Cosmetology classes, and that is where his grades went through the roof. Comfortable in an environment that encouraged passion and creativity, Erik’s grade average was 96%+ and graduated with a straight A average. Erik is now a Master Stylist with a major chain, and has full benefits at his job. He has an astonishing request rate at the salon – even I have to make an appointment to see him!

James took the ACT when he was 13. He did very well. He took it again as a practice test last year, and scored two points higher. To prepare for the ACT this year, he is doing independent study, classes after school, and tutoring on his own time. He expects to raise his previous, practice ACT score by two or three points. James is enjoying high school immensely. Although his is not a “sports guy”, he’s a “Robotics guy” and enjoys tinkering with various projects. James has a knack for details and dates and hopes to get a specialized History PhD when he completes high school, with an eye on teaching college-level classes. He is relishing taking the Writing portion of the ACT because he feels this is where is greatest strength is going to be. On a side note, I never have to ask Jamie to do his homework; rather, I worry about him “beating himself up” about it too much.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I learned, through my extremely different children, that it’s OK to excel or not to excel at these standardized tests. And if you’re that parent trying to push your kid into being the lawyer or doctor or football star you never were – please, please, stop. Your kid might be your child, but he or she is his or her own individual person and we as parents might know them well, but still, you can’t be in another person’s skin and know what makes them tick. It’s OK to be a school person or not a school person. There’s something out there for all of us, but we have to find it individually.

You, as a parent, might be sweating National Test Day right along with your offspring. I can give you the wisdom of my experience to let you know it’s going to be all right. There’s room for lawyers, doctors, football stars, entrepreneurs, actors, scientists, teachers, salespersons, and all the rest, and some you can’t imagine. I am saying to you today, encourage your child to be THEIR best, not YOUR best. Let them shine in their own way, and they’ll do you proud and probably surprise you. Had I tried to fit any of my square pegs into round holes, it would have been a disaster.

National Test Day is right around the corner. Some will thrive, but we’ll all survive.

Your friend,



PS – I made the bed with fresh linens today and Maggie is enjoying the afternoon snoozing on the soft sheets and blankets. She sends a Woof and will see you tomorrow!



20 thoughts on “3/29/17 National Test Day: Please Read

  1. Amy

    Hi Liz. Well said (written). I congratulate you on having three great boys (even though that isn’t what this is really about). And how wise of you to let them be themselves. Just wondering, does Maggie have any aspirations for when she grows up? 🙂

  2. loisajay

    Liz–I am so glad my kids are grown. I know there was pressure for them on SATs/ACTs, but now–it is kind of unreal. And it starts so early! Good luck to kids everywhere. Give Maggie a little hug for me–but don’t wake her up! 😀

  3. IreneDesign2011

    I really like your post and find it very important, that some parents will listen to your knowledge here. I have been a teacher and saw, how many challenges, kids have up to all the tests, which are not necessary.
    Let the kids find themselves and find their dreams to live out, not the parents dreams.

  4. cb

    You REALLY know how to wind me up! Testing sucks. The reason testing sucks is that tests are designed to be easy to grade. The easier they are to grade, the less they evaluate the true potential of the individual. Some people test well, others test poorly. One’s performance on a test rarely reflects there abilities in life. Tests don’t gauge interpersonal skills or one’s ability to innovate. For the record I test well. Also for the record I have written many tests. I know whereof I speak.

    Then there are “standardized tests”. On size fits all. These are by very definition exclusionary. They are filters used to thin the herd. But who are the excluding? No real world job as timed tasks. Well maybe some tasks, but those tend to be rote repetitive tasks that are done over and over again. Most real world tasks are hours/days/weeks. Of course there are deadlines, but they are reasonable. And closed book … give me a break. My advisor and mentor in college always gave open book tests. “I would not want to drive across a bridge that the engineer built from memory”.

    I submit to you that the only true results of standardized tests is the determination of how well the testee performs on standardized tests.

    Also for the record I was inducted into the Tau Beta Pi Engineeing Honor Society in my senior year of college, so this isn’t sour grapes. As I said, I test well.

    Testing sucks

    My iPhone is at 18% (iOS 10.3???) so you are spared a prolonged rant. I could go on.

      1. cb

        For training purposes (as opposed to screening), testing and teaching to the test can have benefits. But these tend to be task or process oriented, often with ability to retake the test more than once. Not so with the standardized tests used used to screen applicants to college. I am probably getting cynical in my old age but I sometimes think that college exist to suck the money of students before flunking them out to make room for the next crop of suckers. So many colleges / so many unemployed & unemployable graduates.

      2. maggie0019 Post author

        I have had many teachers rant that they have to “interrupt their regularly scheduled program” to teach to the test. I do feel the students are in a lose/lose situation with standardized testing. Also, you have an excellent point about the college graduates. They had some school speakers for Jamie’s class last week. Several different professions, but 2 or 3 lawyers. One of the lawyers got up and said, “The problem is, we have too many lawyers and not enough tradesmen. I know too many out of work lawyers saddled with huge student debt. But nobody wants to be a pipefitter or a plumber.”

      3. cb

        And yet … have you looked at what pipe fitters and plumbers bring home? Not that shabby. And no exorbitant student debt. The apprentice/journeyman/master on-the-job training process is very effect and should be used more (not less).

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