Last week, Collegeboard announced that they would be making changes to their flagship exam, the SAT. Among these changes include shifting the scale back to 1600 instead of 2400, making the essay optional, and changing the questions so that they pull from a broader knowledge base. And to help students prepare for this new exam, Collegeboard is partnering with Khan Academy to provide free test prep resources for students.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great. It’s great that Collegeboard is recognizing the enormous pitfalls of the current SAT and that they are taking steps toward changing how their test is done. But it’s insufficient for what colleges and universities need, and nowhere near sufficient for what students need in terms of a proper and holistic assessment of who they are.
Standardized tests have become “far too disconnected from the work of our high schools,” too stressful, and not a very good indicator of a college-ready student. (tweet that)
Collegeboard states that standardized tests have become “far too disconnected from the work of our high schools,” too stressful, and not a very good indicator of a college-ready student. I wholeheartedly agree with that statement, but I fail to see how the changes to the SAT actually resolves the issues stated. Even with the proposed changes to the test, the test is still a standardized test that outputs a numerical, “standardized” score.
What’s the Problem with Standardization?
Our modern world is all about standardization. Companies use standard metrics in order to evaluate the performance and effectiveness of their business and employees, governments use standards in order to enforce regulations that help keep a nation in order, and the current trend toward big data is a huge industry for potential growth simply because everything can be tracked.
The train of thought goes something like “Well it works for evaluating performance, products, and services, let’s apply the same thing to evaluating students!”
But what people fail to realize is the difference between using a standard to evaluate work and using a standard to evaluate people (tweet that). People aren’t products. People can’t simply be treated as another data point on a graph, because people are so much more than that. Humans are social creatures that adapt, mold, and transform into different personalities, shapes, and emotions. People were never made to be compared, they were made to work together, share ideas, and live together on earth.
People fail to realize is the difference between using a standard to evaluate work and using a standard to evaluate people. (tweet that)
In the culture and era of the world that we live in today, collaboration is the only way industries will move forward. CEOs and business leaders talk at great lengths about how beyond the work of the company and the business model, there has to be a solid team behind what the company is doing. One of the greatest challenges in the corporate world today is how to hire people that not only have the proper skill set, but are also a culture fit into their company, because collaboration and teamwork are the building blocks of a company or business.
However, a standardized test that’s built to compare one high school student to another breeds competition rather than collaboration. No wonder so many business leaders complain about the communication and teamwork skills of recent college graduates; they were raised in a system that teaches the exact opposite.
What Can We Do About This?
So now the question becomes “how can we create an assessment that captures the essence of a student in a way that doesn’t compare students to each other in a competitive way?”
The first step is pretty obvious; We have to get rid of the numerical score.
The purpose of an effective and sufficient assessment of students is to encapsulate a good representation of who this student is, complete with a holistic picture of all of their strengths and weaknesses compiled into a way that someone reading the results can interpret who their are and what their strengths are without actually spending time with them.
The first step is pretty obvious; We have to get rid of the numerical score.
What if instead of a test score, the test provided a spectrum of different areas representing a student’s strengths and weaknesses, listing out attributes such as creativity, work ethic, leadership, communication, background, learning aptitude, grit, entrepreneurialism, resourcefulness, etc?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and will write my proposal for a new testing model in a future post.
What would a test like that look like? and how would it help students have a different approach?
I’ve shared before that in my younger days, I thought I didn’t like reading.
It wasn’t until I nearly turned 18 that I found my love for reading books about real life situations and perspectives.
This year, I’m going to try to read as many books as I can. Books are pretty much a compilation of a person’s life work and life lessons, and by sitting down for a couple of hours and fifteen dollars, I can get a glimpse into a successful person’s process.
Even if I only get one thing out of a book, it was worth it.
In a casual conversation I had a couple weeks ago, I was sharing some of the books that had completely changed my life, and one of my friends asked me how I had so much time to read so much.
The truth is, I don’t have time not to be reading. By reading the lives of people, I am effectively getting perspective from their lives about the challenges they faced and how they overcame the challenges. By reading books, I am actually helping myself save time. I become more aware of the problems and the questions long before they come up in my personal life.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that I go out and read every single thing that I can find. I’m a big advocate of watching what content you consume. My focus then, is taking the time to figure out what I am learning from each book that I read. Reading reviews is a helpful way to determine whether a book will be helpful for me or not.
In the wise words in Letters from a Stoic by Seneca the Younger,
You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind.
Everywhere means nowhere.
When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends.
And the same thing must hold true of men who seek intimate acquaintance with no single author, but visit them all in a hasty and hurried manner.
Food does no good and is not assimilated into the body if it leaves the stomach as soon as it is eaten; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent change of medicine; no wound will heal when one salve is tried after another; a plant which is often moved can never grow strong.
Oh. And follow me on goodreads.
If you’ve ever been in a leadership position of any sort, you know that there is always a certain authoritative feeling that comes with the title.
However, the mark of a true leader is one that is able to inspire and empower people, regardless of whether he or she has a title.
How many people do you know that have brought significant change to an environment just by being themselves? These people have a way of uniting and connecting people and really inspire them to also be the best version of themselves.
How many people have simply started movements just by being extraordinary in their everyday actions?
I believe that these are the true leaders.
I decided to make a video about my thoughts on leadership. In this video, I talk about four aspects of an extremely effective leader that I have found to be extremely valuable.
A relational leader leads by example. The most powerful leader is one that allows their life to be the message above their words. They should be able to demonstrate the attitude and mindset that they want to see in their group.
The reason for this is because the attitudes and mindsets that a leader has, regardless of whether it is blatantly communicated, will usually be seen as a model for followers to reproduce. If a leader does not set an ethical, helpful, and generous example, the people who are under their leadership will assume that it is okay for them to do the same.
Leaders should always be learning and growing. Leaders who assume that they have all the answers are leaders that don’t believe there is more room for improvement. Leaders should be confident in what they have learned, but also open and willing to hear input from everyone who has their best interest in mind.
Leaders should always seek to get to know people for who they are. Leaders genuinely care about the well being of their group, because no matter the context, the whole group is healthier when the people that make up the group are whole. Even if what people are going through seems irrelevant to the group’s purpose, an effective leader is able to have an interest in people that goes beyond simply getting work done. It’s about the leader creating a safe environment for people to truly be themselves.
Effective Leaders should be able to raise up leaders. A leader that is capable of naturally creating relationships and getting people to follow them is a good leader. But the most effective leaders understand that the success of the group cannot depend on solely on the leader. In other words, if a leader were to be removed from the group, the group should be able to eventually function just as well without him or her and not completely fall apart.
Thus, the goal of a leader should never be to make people more dependent on the leader, but to empower people to become leaders in their own capacity.
What are other characteristics of leaders that you think are important?
People are unpredictable. That’s why leadership is so difficult; there’s no set formula for organizing people and starting a movement.
The best leader is one who earns their authority, not one who expects a position of authority. Great leaders understand that respect is earned from your followers, not merely given. Leadership is stronger when given from below, not above.
That’s why much of what people are writing about leadership nowadays talk about the leader being a servant. In fact, that’s why Jesus taught this principle when he was on earth.
The leader that expects authority simply because they are in a position with a title of authority will struggle to find a formula to organize people who are inherently unpredictable.
The leader that spends the time serving and earning the respect of people will have a positive reputation that precedes him.
Putting someone in a place of influence is always a choice by the people they are leading.