It happens every fall season. Terrified teens. Anxiety increases, panic attacks increase. The cause? Worries about their future performance on standardized exams. No, correct that, it’s not just high schoolers. This epidemic of college hysteria starts much younger. The last kid to share their test anxiety with me was only nine years old.
Kids are no longer allowed to be kids at any age in the frantic rush to "get into a good college."
Why the hysteria? In part, it is fueled by the notion that SAT/ACT scores are the gateway into a college of their choice. And that only a few choice colleges will guarantee the key to success and happiness. Both of these notions are myths.
A FEW FACTS:
Did you know that success on high stakes testing such as the SAT is more linked to socio-economic class than to prediction of success in college?
Did you know that many of these tests are poorly normed and not well validated before given to your kids?
Did you know that many of the testing corporations use your kids as guinea pigs to validate the test questions for future test versions?
And, most importantly, did you know that kids with special needs will do poorly on these types of timed, multiple choice tests even if their fund of general knowledge far exceeds their peers?
MYTH: Every kid needs to go to a four year college in order to find happiness and success.
Not so, my friends!
It’s time to wake up and push back against the kind of rigid thinking that creates college prep automatons rather than whole hearted, confident and capable human beings. Kids are being pressured to perform increasingly higher as the high stakes testing game continues to play an increasingly prominent role in our drive to push kids into select colleges.
MYTH: Multiple choice standardized tests are a reliable way to predict a student’s ability.
NOT. Let me just say that some kids are just not multiple choice thinkers. In fact, think about it. Is this the type of automaton thinker we want to run our future world? What happened to our out of the box creativity that truly fuels this planet? We need innovators, problem solvers, wide range unconventional reasoners to work on our future planet. Not cookie cutter multiple choice responders. So what exactly are we doing to our kids?
You can push back. As parents, you have the power to protest the standardized testing game and avoid the race to a select few “good” colleges with your choices, your actions and attitudes.
Start to look at the colleges that do not require standardized testing for admissions. There are amazing colleges in this country that offer a broad and creative curriculum that can meet the passions and interest of just about every student. Check them out and you will be amazed. Book sources include:
Start to tell your child that he or she is worth more than a score on a random test. The time to build a child’s self worth, as well as a broader outlook on life after high school begins long before high school. In my practice, it’s frightening to see how many ten years olds are already worried about where they will go to college.
Get involved in your old college as an alumnus. Make sure your opinion is heard: eliminate or minimize standardized testing as a make or break rubric for acceptance.
Build Passions, Not Test Scores
Building diverse interests and stoking your child’s passions create a more positive outcome on life than the emphasis on where to go, or even whether to go to college.
While it’s true that college graduates statistically have higher paying jobs, it’s also true that many people freeze after college and have virtually no training, outlook or experience to live in the real world when all they have ever known is studying and getting grades.
Whether or not you have a child who is ready to think about college, start thinking about your child. Who is he or she? Is this child a college candidate right now or do they need something more enriching and more diverse before starting to consider advanced education?
For example, Israeli teens have to serve a compulsory 2 to 3 years in the army after high school. After they get out, they generally spend time working and traveling before even considering University. While Israel has among the highest per capita educational level in the world, virtually 0% of their population attend college at 18.
Start thinking about a broader picture. Does your child want to give back before enrolling in that frat house? Does your child need more time to “ripen”? Consider The Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity, or others.
Consider working at a job for a year. Nothing prepares kids for life like … real life. Your child will start college with a deeper sense of what they want to do afterwards.
And finally, re-examine your own attitude and expectations. Many atypical kids are late bloomers or just different thinkers. Honor their differences and build a path for them that is truly authentic and amazing. You will be proud.
~Dr. Rita Eichenstein, PhD, specializes in pediatric neuropsychology, psychotherapy, and parenting skills. She's learned through more than 20 years of clinical experience how important the parents' emotional health is to an atypical kid's future success. Check out her website, blog and book.