Spring testing baffles students

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to post something here. Why, you may ask? Well, I’ve discovered that March-May of my Junior year is fast becoming an extremely stressful time for myself, and many other students in my situation.jdutton2.jpg

Why, you may ask? The tests have arrived. Ask any high school student, or really upperclassmen I guess, and they will tell you that there seems to be no end in sight once those first tests start coming. At Skyline this year we will be taking the California State Tests the last week of April. Following that, AP Exams are given in the first three weeks of May. Finals for regular classes are a few weeks after that in the second week of June.

But, it doesn’t even end there. Many Juniors and Seniors are also taking the SAT, SAT II, or the ACT during these spring months as well. That is exhausting just to think about. There really seems to be no time in between to study, review, do homework, have a part-time job, or just relax. How do students do it? I tell you, we high schoolers really are an incredible breed. 

So what do you think? Are all these tests preparing us for real life bureaucracy, or are they totally pointless? Do you think there could be a better system so everything is so crammed in at the last minute?  I hope to find time throughout all this to continue posting. Wish us luck with our studies and those many, many tests.  


  • Nextset

    The testing is becoming a rite of passage. There doesn’t seem to be any way around it. The same thing happens in the UK and Japan and the consequences are just as great or greater in those countries because entire careers depend on the results of testing in adolescence. You don’t get to be a physician or a lawyer there if you fail certain key tests around puberty and again at 18. Our testing isn’t as severe.

    So make the best of it and realize that everybody else in your cohort is in the same boat. You either have it or not, are prepared or not. That’s life, all people are not created equal. It goes without saying that if one door closes another opens and there is always plan B.

    And if you think this is stressful, wait till midterms and finals in college, grad school applications, professional licensing testing (CPA exam has a 20% pass rate in CA, etc.). Everyone else manages in life and the students we speak of here can too.

    Part of the painful process may be getting realistic about what you really want in life and what you have done/are willing to do to get it. I interviewed a 11th grader once who was spouting off about going to UC Davis – she read at 6th grade level. She wasn’t very happy when I got through talking to her. I was annoyed that no one prior to me had told her what a horrible missmatch she was to UC anywhere (and what if anything she could do in the time remaining to get there). She didn’t even want to go to summer school… go figure.

    These tests are no different than many other tests in life. They force you to look at yourself objectively and compare your merits to other candidates. The results may surprise you. A weakness in one area can be accompanied by strenght elsewhere. Things tend to work out if you get realistic and focus.

  • http://myspace.com/albinoariebizzle Diamond

    I am considerably stressed out with school as a Junior in high school. While nextset makes amazing points about getting real, adults do not give us enough credit for the things that we do. Both of my parents often look at my work and say “We never had to do THAT in school”. I do find the tests unnecessary as all people are different and there shouldn’t be one specific type of a standardized test when everyone thinks differently. since the tests judge us, it gives people the right to think that can judge teens as well, and its just plain ol’ not right.

  • Sue

    I just read an article this morning in the NY Times about employers using various testing services for job applicants. It seems to be the way the world is going. I think that’s sad, even though test-taking is a peculiar talent of mine and this trend could work to my family’s advantage, since my younger son seems to have the inherited a similar facility.

    I wish I could provide a link to that article, because the writer explained the flaws of over-reliance on testing much better than I could when I’ve made attempts here. The title was “Dilbert the Inquisitor”, if someone more tech-savvy has the time and interest to go find it.

    Hang in there Jesse, and Diamond, and all the other students in the midst of testing-season.

    It’s rare for me to agree with Nextset, but this is a new burden for your generation, and it seems likely to continue after high school and college graduation.

    I just wish I could teach my older son, a Skyline sophomore, to *do* tests the way his little brother can, because he’s right behind both of you, and will be facing the same things in a year.

  • Katy Murphy
  • Nextset

    Diamond: The thing about your position on testing, judging and fairness is: It’s not about you.

    The science of scoring sorting and testing people is mainly a 20th century development and there is a LOT of 20th century history that I’m afraid may not be covered in your classes that greatly affects your living conditions today.

    Read “The Bell Curve” or start with the Wikipedia summary of that book and go from there. Most of this really got going with massive data collection in WWI. The government has tampered with some data gathering – banning the testing of IQ of blacks in schools for example (even voluntary testing is apparently prohibited by schools). The marketplace laughs this off and happily substitutes proxy tests such as PSAT/SAT (there are internet posted formulas for translating these scores to IQ scores). IBM in the 20th century is noted for using IQ scores for hiring and placement in the company, The NFL still uses them today for all football team hiring and position assignment (upper and lower score limits for each position). Say what you will, IBM was able to take people who were not upper class from small towns and place them quickly in their management training based on IQ score – replacing previously used social class distinctions.

    Colleges, employers, police officers, ER Doctors, whoever – have to analyze people and their problems and make decisions quickly. Do I give someone a scarce hospital bed of have them sleep in the waiting room? Do I give a college seat to Tom, Dick or Harry? Do I hire this bank teller or that one? when I was your age – 16 or so, I remember a conversation a the dinner table where my father had participated in a meeting where the attendees were trying to guess how many drug babies the Wells Fargo Tellers were going to produce in a year. He was involved with a HMO and they had to price a contract with WFB. The drug babies were costing a half million each or more so it was important not to be taken by surprise with these calculations. I thought at the time that my high school classwork wouldn’t train me to work at an HMO. Later I took Statistics at UC Berkeley for a graduation requirement and I learned how powerful stats can be. It’s not just the IQ score that is important to industry, it’s credit scores and proficiency scores custom made for industries (like the LSAT or insurance scores).

    Scoring & Testing is how large numbers of people are accomodated in our society – quickly. My law school got 20k applications in a year and had so many days to made decisions for 500 seats. You should hear what their schedule was to manage the coding and selection of so many people in a few months. Hint: the dean once told me once that they had no alumni from only one state and the next application they got from that zip code was getting in. Zip Codes are a form of coding.. Bet they found such a candidate.

    We know statistically that given enough data human behavior and outcomes can be largely accurately predicted at least in groups of people. It doesn’t have to sound fair or feel good, it works like the house odds at Harrah’s.

    Testing you is a way of matching you up to the known datasets and seeing where you fit. People and institutions who deal with you require those scores or they aren’t interested in spending their limited time and resources with you. So you co-operate and take the tests. That’s life so far. Don’t take it personally because, it’s not about you.

    If you have something that other people want or need and can’t get elsewhere you can bargain one to one. Until then, you are just a computer listing on Prosper.Com or whatever. People shop the odds at least to some degree when their property, safety or lives are at stake.

    Talk about testing, but more importantly learn everything you can about the testing you seem to be required to take. And part of growing up is less and less reliance on the word “fair”. If a practice exists now or in the past, there was probably an important reason for it. People are not in the business of hurting themselves (You, yes. Themselves, no). If the test, or any other thing, seems “unfair”, you most likely have not studied it enough.

    Good luck.

  • cranky teacher

    To link SATs to potential is ludicrous. SATs test primarily for knowledge, not potential — basically checking for the kind of normed knowledge produced by middle-class families and schools, especially vocabulary, grammar and basic math.

    According to my SAT on those websites you mention, I am in the top 99.99 percentile of IQ. Yet I’m a struggling teacher on his third career, and have no great scientific or cultural breakthroughs on my resume, nor am I rich.

    Reality is, success is complicated. Just as important as intelligence are other factors: Motivation, self-esteem, people skills, reliability, time management, avoidance of mental illness and addiction, luck, etc.
    And number one is probably resilence.

  • Nextset

    Cranky, you’re absolutely right. SAT and some of the other tests are screening devices that are used to deselect lower IQ students and keep them out of places like Stanford or Chico State. Although you may have had a sufficient SAT to get into an Teacher College or it’s equivilent program, you, nor I, had the additional chops to wind up a specialty surgeon, or a PHd in Physics.

    That reminds me, I met Edward Teller a few times when he was running high school classes at Lawrence Livermore Lab for select (handpicked?) high school students from across the Bay Area. If only I could have fallen into that at 10th grade… Conversing with an historic figure for high school classes would have been pretty damn inspiring..

    Anyway I wan’t THAT good at lab sciences. Bs and my testing wouldn’t have supported it as a major. I preferred business anyway.

    Back to your comments. SATs and related testing are important because they allow sorting of huge numbers of candidates in the short time available to fill limited educational slots in various fields. All nations have similarr scheme, the UKs are among the most interesting to me.

    I’m aware of the old complaint about a poor little black student not knowing what the word “regatta” means so he flunked his SAT. The thing is, if a student of any race doesn’t know that word, he/she just doesn’t read enough. And they are deselected. Too bad, so sad.

    I didn’t have a problem with the SAT, neither did my friends. I didn’t go to Harvard – but I did OK. You see, you find out in advance what is required of you and make darn sure you are ready. Or you just lose. That’s life. My 3rd grade teacher Sister Gemma taught me that at the end of her sensible shoe. I’ll always remember her. Never a dull moment in her class. When you finished with her in one piece you knew you were good enough.

  • cranky teacher

    I met Edward Teller on PSA once, coming up from LA. He was a real nutjob — at the time he was selling Reagan on the “Star Wars” project.

  • Debora


    I’m the Mom of an eight year old daughter. In many ways she seems similar to you – she sees the inequity in the world, yet, finds a way to make it better; she is driven and tests reasonably well; she is well-rounded and likes to study, spend time with friends, and enjoys a variety of activities in and out of school.

    If you could let me know the things that have helped you, from your parents, the educational system, outside systems, I would love to hear your opinions. Because in the end, after the frenzy of activity, I want my daughter and our family to make choices that will give my daughter the latitude she needs to make decisions that will bring her fulfillment in life. I don’t need her to live for me, or to make up for the opportunities I may have or have not had. I want her to be able to feel secure enough with herself to live her life.

  • Nextset

    Cranky: Are we to judge Edward Teller on your observations (during a PSA flight)? Right.

    I may not agree on all his political moves, but there is something about a Nobel Science Prize Winner who lived THAT long with his hand in military, industrial & scientific power worldwide to the very end, that makes you want to keep your own health up. You don’t stay in that game that long without having something worth listening to. It was significant to me that he ran his own (public) High School and College student courses into his 90’s. Were we to all have access to public high school teachers like that…

    And I wonder what Admiral Grace Hopper would have been like as a math teacher.. Other people I know had dealings with Admiral Hyman Rickover (in his advanced age while still in office).

    I had professional training from a cadre of WWII vets before they retired and died. They were truly impressive people, the greatest generation. And many of them came from the working class – cannery workers, miners etc. The were PUBLIC SCHOOL educated. We won’t see the like of them again. They weren’t what you would call indulgent.

    Not a bunch of lefty “education” major sob sisters like those on the scene today.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Edward Teller, R.I.P.

    I shouldn’t talk ill of the dead. I’m glad to hear he was doing good things for the “yuf.” I only know him as, a) The creator of the H-Bomb, b)The major proponent of spending billions on Star Wars. Sad to say, neither really made me feel any warm and fuzzies for the guy.

    I will say this: There is almost no comparison between working with highly-motivated, extremely smart kids who LIKE THE SUBJECT THEY ARE LEARNING ABOUT, and teaching anybody else. I get kids who love talking politics or fiction and they are just a joy for me, even as their math teacher finds them exhausting. Meanwhile, I had a kid last year who was already making a living building robots for Arctic explorer scientists and he HATED my English class — I’m sure his science teachers had a very different impression of him than his humanities teachers.

    In other words, if Teller was getting la creme de la creme, it might have been keeping him young . . . while trying to get 35 low-track 10th graders to appreciate the intricacies of the French Revolution can make one OLD in a hurry.

    It’s the same in college: Getting 15 interested grad students in a seminar is world’s apart from teaching remedial Freshman comp classes year after year to kids just trying to get their general ed requirements out of the way. What it takes to teach is over-generalized.

  • Jesse Dutton-Kenny

    Thank you for your comment Debora! I’m so excited when people ask me things. And I actually have a lot to say about what things have helped me throughout the years.

    First and foremost I really appreciate my parents, and they have helped me so much over the years. Recently, as I look at what values I hold dearest in my life, I have realized the role my parents played in that. They always encouraged me to question the powers that be. They always told me how important my studies would come to be later in life. But most of all they never forced anything on me. I’ve always had rules and chores, and curfews, but they are very relaxed about letting me do what I need to do and letting me believe what I want to. They’ve encouraged me to travel and be all that I can be. So I really encourage you to give your daughter freedom but let her know she has a very strong support system when she needs it. If kids are openly given that freedom, they are less likely to abuse it. And this has helped me in school and in life.

    Secondly, I really found a great group of friends in high school that shared my values, and were interested in the same things as me. They’ve all made high school much much more enjoyable, and the day-to-day stuff like testing is much easier with those friends to lean on. I would encourage your daughter to seek these people out by joining clubs in school (later on) and trying interesting activities outside of school. For me it was three things: a youth group through my church, the Building with Books Club, and the Global Awareness In Action Club. I continue to play a role in each of these and thats where I really found the people I belonged with.

    The last advice I would give is to find that one thing you really love and pursue it when school gets boring. Stuff like hiking, biking, sports, photography, painting, and writing can be great outlets for frustration one may have with school or the world in general. So as a parent, I encourage you to buy your daughter a camera, or a bike for her birthday and find out what it is she loves. For me it was painting.

    So I hope that helps in any way!

  • Nextset

    Cranky – You’re right that it’s the unnoticed teachers that do the bulk of the heavy lifting with the greatest number of students. It’s only those students in the right place at the right time who bump into world figures.

    Teller and the others were in a life and death struggle with the Soviet Empire. There was supposed to be a Soviet nuclear strike on the USA – it was our munitions and the delivery systems we developed that postponed that day until it failed to arrive – from the Soviets. Our new adversaries have yet to play their final hands.

    The US public was put into WWII by those who knew it was important to get the war started before our position was eroded. England and France neglected their military positions and nearly lost all to the Nazis (peace is at hand… right!). A particular High IQ group was so smug in their own confidence they lost much of their membership to the Death Camps because they evidently couldn’t understand that Cattle don’t make contracts with meatpackers (thus the slogan, Never Again!). Interesting history to consider as we watch the Muslims. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody accidently drops a nuke on Iran before November – many analysts expect it. Perhaps Lil’ George’s lower IQ keeps him in the protect and defend range..

    So say what you will about Teller and his merry band of Scientists. We aren’t celebrating Japanese & German & Russian national holidays… Cinco de Mayo, maybe. I found Dr. Teller to be a noteworthy personality. especially as a real old public speaker. And he was a public school teacher until his end.

  • Debora


    Your advice does help. We have the kind of values in our home that you discuss; a strong work ethic, a sense of responsibility for our family, extended family and friends, pets, and moral responsibility.

    My daughter’s passion is a love of languages: she’s been taking Spanish since preschool and German since Kindergarten. As in painting, skill and expertise do not show up right away – but after you’ve put in effort over time. It’s our way of showing her that effort matters. Like you, probably, she does well in school without much effort. With languages, she must put forth effort.

    We have not traveled abroad yet, but are planning a European trip when Blythe is 11. Her German should be very good by then; maybe she will have another language as well.

    Your sense of introspection is refreshing. It’s tough to see if my daughter will have that same thoughtfulness. I appreciate what you have to say, and how you say it. Your writing is clear and inviting to read, and what you have to say is worthy of our time. I’ll write again soon – take care, and thank you for your time and effort.

  • Jesse Dutton-Kenny

    Thank you very much Debora!

  • Della Singleton

    Funny how I am forcing myself to love reading my text books and taking tests geenerally, but it does not work. The tests we as juniors have to take are indifinitely non stop. I believe that we should be required to take a few tests here & now but 3-4 tests a week that’s ridicously. I have a teacher who gives us tests everyday in class WOW! I am not trying to complain too much but some teachers opt to give tests on levels that they don’t even teach..which is detrimental for one & hilarious on the other hand. One thing I can say is that with all this back and forth I will definitely be prepared for college 😉 because many of my teachers have pushed me to that level, although there are teachers who try to set us up for failure! That part sucks though, because many teachers don’t teach for the love of teaching, but for the love of money..& many teachers are satisfied with their pay checks.

  • Nextset

    Della: test giving can be a form of teaching. Thus you can get tested on subjects not fully covered and learn from the process of working through the tests and reviewing the results. You are not always being set up for failure on that method. My (HS) classes had prerequisites and we were tested without those prereqs ever being discussed. If you failed you were on notice you had a problem. Certainly the instructor didn’t teach the prereqs. You were supposed to have them down before you came into the class.

    Also aptitude and placement tests are given before the students are taught a particular subject.

    In college the reading lists and assignments are posted somewhere before classes start – thus a quiz on the first day of class is in order as the students were supposed to have familiarized themselves on a set of points and issues before the first day of class.

    So the process you are describing in high school is interesting but it doesn’t always get better/easier in advanced education. I’m very glad your school is preparing you for college.