Friday, May 21, 2010
I took two standardized tests over the last month. Know when the last time was I took a standardized test? 1971! And before that? 1963! Were you even alive then? The median age of Americans is now 35.3 years; half are older, half younger. So half the population of the country wasn’t even born the last time I took a standardized test. Hey you college seniors! You weren’t even a come-hither glance between your parents over the dinner table. You high school juniors, I took the SAT before your parents were even married. Yet I found myself over at Ivy Tech the last Wednesday in April, and at Sylvan Learning Center on May 4th, taking standardized tests after thirty-nine years.
I guess you could call it a second career; or maybe I’m such a slow starter that I’ve been working up to this for sixty-three years. After all, I was born six weeks premature; so make allowances. I’m campaigning to affiliate with the teaching profession, and that meant doing some strange things for my age and educational level. Like, the CLEP (College Level Examination Program) for freshman computer competency, but as a masters degree graduate—a little late, huh? Over at Ivy Tech to inquire about the test, was told I could take it in fifteen minutes if I wanted. Hey, for the Jameses to think is to act, so I uholstered by Visa card, and two hours later was pronounced literate by Gaston Caperton, the former governor of West Virginia and current head of College Board, and Microsoft, the operating system on the testing computer in the Ivy Tech quiet room. (The Gates Foundation, incidentally, is a big donor to College Board.)
The last week of April I called Educational Testing Service to inquire about Praxis 1, the teacher education pre-professional skills test: what you have to pass before the state will give you a teaching license. I was at my music teaching site in Chicago—where I’ve taught for ten years. That day Verizon offered particularly horrible connection. To make matters worse, the guy on the other end of the phone was from some “call center” in India—yes, Virginia, they’ve outsourced educational testing scheduling, too—and he kept interrupting to say I was breaking up. So there I was, walking around the block at 109th Western Ave. in Chicago looking for reception, shouting out both my Social Security number and the numbers off my Visa card. As my sainted Aunt Ellen would have said, “You ain’t got no smart.” I later found out that the Alder-person for that ward on Chicago’s south side had run on a platform that included “no cell towers,” barring bars for cell phone users, as it were. (Incidentally, most of that ward is “dry” also—no bars in Beverly.) That day, a bar of either kind would have been welcome.
Praxis 1 was more interesting. Here was the point at which I would rather have been a math major. At least with math there is no ambiguity about the answers. One is either right or wrong. With this test I was presented with sentences to be corrected, paragraphs to be written and interpreted. Did these people prefer the “serial comma?” Was “grow” as an active verb O.K., as in “we will grow our business”?—I hate that. How were my patterns of usage to compare with that of the 21st century collegian? When presented with multiple choices none of which were in agreeance with me, I was, like, “Eeew! Dude! This sucks!” I was, like, Ā-clue-istic.
Results? A 185, I guess out of 200. Dude, it’ll have to do. Like, 150 was a pass. Bob’s your uncle. See you in class. No senior left behind.