Saturday, March 08, 2008


I try to pretend that I can't stand standardized testing, that I'm a teacher because I love literature and talking about life and all that, but here's a confession: It's really, really important to me that my students do well on the ACT. Mainly, of course, I want them to do well because of what it possibly means for their futures. But secretly, I want my students to score higher than other teachers' students do, and I want their English scores to be higher than in the other subjects. This is for personal reasons. I'm competitive. I'm selfish. And at the end of the year, I want the students to know that at least one teacher worked hard to help them out.

And so we've entered testing season and I'm getting nervous because I know my kids aren't ready yet. But I think I've got many of them believing in themselves and in me. Yesterday they took a practice ACT. Today I asked them to fill out a quick reflection on how it went.

I asked them to compare yesterday's practice with the previous one. I asked which strategies they tried, which ones worked. I asked what their personal plans would be in the coming weeks. And the two questions that I was really interested in:
  1. Which test section was easiest for you? A. English B. Math C. Reading D. Science
  2. Which section was most difficult? A. English B. Math C. Reading D. Science
They responded exactly the way I was hoping. On the second question, not one student said that English was the hardest. Math won in a landslide. And on the first question, 87% of them responded that English was the easiest. They may change their minds when the results come in, but at least they're talking the talk.

I asked them to explain why they thought it was the easiest, and they wrote things like "Because we went over strategies & in my other classes we didn't" and "Due to all the practice we did in here" and "English is the only class I have that really did practice for the ACT" and "I actually learn something in English" and "Because you helped me with the strategies" and "English is awesome!!"

You're probably thinking they responded that way because I'm their English teacher, and they thought that's what I wanted to hear. But you have to believe me that my students are honest about this kind of thing. As evidence, I present the responses from this one smart boy I'll call Albert.

On the question asking to compare yesterday's practice test with the previous one, he circled C. About the same. His explanation: "All tests are equally mundane and irrelevent" (sic).

On the question asking which section was easiest, Albert didn't circle anything. His comment: "I don't pay attention to this type of thing."

My last question was: What thoughts, questions, concerns, or comments do you have about the ACT?

Other students wrote things like "It's going to be hard" and "It's pretty long" and "I am concerned that I will get nervous during the test and that I will forget everything" and "My concern is me being terrified because usually I freeze when I am."

What was Albert's final remark? "What does ACT stand for?"

And here's where a guy like Albert gets really annoying. I have ready responses to the other students' concerns and questions. And I know how to deal with nerves. But I just realized that I've been teaching to the test for eight years now, and I have no idea what ACT stands for.


appopt said...

I just spent five minutes on the ACT website, and I still don't know what it stands for.

third_grd_teach said...

I think it used to stand for American College Test, but now it's just a group of letters.

FresH20 said...


A College Trial (Run)

appopt said...

A. Another Crappy Test
B. Answering Confusing Trivia
C. Answer "C" Tactic
D. Assessing Capabilities Theoretically
E. All of the above

Anonymous said...

wikipedia - ACT, Inc., was originally known as the American College Testing Program, Inc., but changed its name to ACT Inc., the letters not standing for anything, in 1996. In 2002 the company was restructured to include "Education" and "Workforce Development" divisions, each overseen by its own advisory board. Each state also has its own state organization, and the entire company is overseen by a board of directors made up of 14 members. When high school students become sophomores, they take the PLAN test to help decide if they will want to take the ACTs the following year.[1]

In 2005 the company established ACT International. This organization is composed of ACT Education Solutions, Limited, and ACT Business Solutions, B.V. ACT Education Solutions is directed toward helping non-native speakers learn English in preparation for studying at an English-speaking educational institution. ACT Business Solutions attempts to help employers assess their employees' level of English proficiency through use of the WorkKeys assessment.[1]