Achievement Testing Dilemma
Several times a year, I watch as students pore over SAT and ACT prep books and attend prep classes; and moms and dads, feeling their student’s college career is at stake, stress out or stress their children out as test time approaches. Are these tests really necessary? Are they really an indicator of college readiness or simply an indicator of successful indoctrination in our current society?
I’ll be honest: both my children were poor test takers. I felt that test “prep” constituted cheating and invalidated the test results. So I made my children take achievement tests “cold,” with no prep whatsoever. I subsequently discovered that they were “competing” against other students who had prepped for months if not years; some of whose parents had spent thousands of dollars on “test prep.” I was stunned at the audacity of it all, then overwhelmed with guilt, feeling like I’d set my children up to fail. Ultimately, my son earned his B.S. degree in physics and my daughter got into nursing school, then became a birthing coach (doula).
In addition, I felt it was my responsibility to teach my children the correct answers to potential politically-charged questions, instructing them, “This is the correct answer, but here’s what you must put on the test or it will be counted wrong.” This wasn’t my idea of what achievement testing was designed to accomplish. I thought achievement tests ultimately determined that a basic content level was attained by students preparing to graduate from high school and/or planning on attending college.
Current tests, based on the ACT prep books I’ve used for tutoring, measure test-taking skills not knowledge base. Their obsession with graphs, to the exclusion of almost everything else I would consider important, seems completely out of touch with reality. In fact, the complexity of Common Core material the tests are based on has gone up (according to Dr. Megan Koschnick, University of Notre Dame, it’s often age inappropriate and creates levels of stress in young children that must be dealt with professionally). Basic practical knowledge of just about everything else is almost nonexistent.
When my son entered college, I attended his physics class orientation and was surprised when the professor wrote ACT scores on the board. He said, “If you have this ACT score, you may take this class. If you have this other ACT score, you will have to take this lesser class.” In other words, the ACT score was EVERYTHING! That was the moment I realized what I had done to my children by not preparing them for the standardized tests. However, Dr. Peg Luksik (co-founder of the Center for American Heritage and outspoken critic of Common Core) tells us that more than 1,000 U.S. colleges no longer use standardized tests for entrance criteria. In addition, many top colleges are actively recruiting homeschooling students because of their academic excellence.
That being said, in my research on Common Core, I have discovered that achievement tests are in the process of being written to line up with Common Core standards, not just for high school but for college. It’s only a matter of time before homeschooled students will have to be taught Common Core answers to these achievement tests if they want to attend a college that requires them.
So what do we do as a homeschooling community? Do we pass on to our children the knowledge we want them to have and “hope for the best” on college entrance exams, making sure they have a good academic and community service portfolio? Do we continue to teach them what we want them to know but include all the “right” answers to put on an achievement test in order to attend college? Do we discourage them from attending college at all? It’s a moral dilemma to be sure.
It’s my sincere hope that homeschooling parents will educate themselves on this topic, and get involved in their state legislatures to ensure that homeschoolers don’t have to take these Common Core-based tests for college entry, and work to ensure that an alternate form of college entrance requirements is available for home-educated students.
That being said, having personally observed homeschooled students graduating from college having lost their faith after exposure to radicalized professors, having observed Christian colleges lowering their Biblical standards in the name of diversity, and watching the trend of college students graduating with a huge load of college debt and unable to find a good-paying job upon graduation, I am now recommending to my students that they consider pursuing a practical skill in a technical college or start their own business as an alternative to attending college.
If a student is intent on pursuing a science career (such as nursing, medical school, or kinesiology), I encourage them to find a good college where they have a chance to keep their faith intact while pursuing a science degree. Dr. Luksik says if your student really wants to attend college, DO YOUR HOMEWORK to find a school where your student is safe from intense indoctrination against everything you believe. There are precious few of these colleges at present.
As a parent, it is your God-given role to assist your students in navigating these murky waters, but remember that we have a God in Heaven who will help us pilot our ships through the storms ahead!
[Search on youtube for Dr. Peg Luksik and Dr. Megan Koschnick for many recorded speeches on this and other topics.]
Ruth Sundeen has a B.S. degree in Biology, with a minor in Chemistry. Home-educating her own two children for 18 years, she decided to include other students in their high school science classes, including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Anatomy & Physiology. She added Physical Science to her portfolio, when she started teaching science in private Christian schools for the past two years; in addition, she tutors college physics and chemistry.
Ruth is passionate about teaching science from a special creation perspective, helping students develop a love of science, a strong grasp of the scientific evidence to support special creation, and the conviction that they can make a difference in the world we live in.
She was awarded the 2017 SchoolhouseTeachers.com Teacher of the Year for her Biology curriculum design. She and her husband, Larry, live in Abita Springs, Louisiana.