Yoknapatawpha Crossing

The ETS

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Those of you in high school or college are likely familiar with the Educational Testing Service, or ETS, hereafter referred to as “those insufferable craphounds.” Those insufferable craphounds are running an organization that markets itself as nonprofit while still finding it mysteriously necessary to charge students exorbitant prices for the privilege of subjecting themselves to tests such as the SAT or GRE. Examining their webpage, one finds that they make much of “listening to educators, parents, and critics” (notice the exclusion of “students” from that list) in order to do a better job of helping “teachers teach and students learn.” All I can say to that is they must be pretty goddamn hard of hearing, because I have not ever in my entire life heard a single, solitary word of praise for those insufferable craphounds from anybody, be they student, teacher, parent, or disinterested third-party critic. At best, people grudgingly put up with them as some sort of necessary evil. And I can also say to them that, speaking as a student, the only thing those insufferable craphounds have ever helped me to learn is to exploit common fallibilities in multiple-choice tests, which is, interestingly, a skill that will be completely useless in my professional life.

Examining their mission statement, one discovers some intriguing claims. Let’s quote them, shall we?

Our Mission: To advance quality and equity in education by providing fair and valid assessments, research, and related services. Our products and services measure knowledge and skills, promote learning and educational performance, and support education and professional development for all people worldwide.

Those insufferable craphounds state that their products measure knowledge and skills. In a certain sense this may be true; in fact, if they intend “knowledge and skills” to mean “ability to quickly answer standardized test questions,” then they have hit the nail on the head. If they intend “knowledge and skills” to mean “ability to effectively learn, ability to succeed academically, and ability to critically analyze and solve a variety of problems,” then their mission statement is more than a gross misrepresentation, it is an outright lie. According to those insufferable craphounds, I correctly identified the relationship between “obsequious” and “stipendiary,” but remarkably, I had not a clue what either of those words meant, and could not have used them in conversation or writing. According to those insufferable craphounds, I can correctly answer the majority of 28 questions relating to pre-calculus mathematics in under 45 minutes, which is clearly an important thing to know, because having a crazed lunatic point a gun to my head and threaten to kill me if I can’t correctly tell him how far Farmer Bob has to go to get to the market in under two minutes is a DAILY FUCKING OCCURRENCE in my world. According to those insufferable craphounds, when I walk in to a testing center unprepared and get a good score by relying on my ability to guess well on multiple choice tests, I am more qualified to study at graduate schools than people who earned a slightly lower score by working hard to prepare for the test.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about the entire situation is that colleges and graduate schools seem to actually put stock in the tests that those insufferable craphounds administer. Particularly graduate schools. Come one folks, use your damn heads. I have been at college working hard for four motherfucking years, and you hope to glean something meaningful about my academic ability from a two hour standardized test? You’re already looking at my academic record, my GPA, letters of recommendation from people who know me. What are these test scores going to relate to you? How accurate do you think that is as compared to those other piddling bits of information?

Universities, please, take Mr. T’s advice and don’t be fools: SAT and GRE scores are not telling you anything useful about your potential students. Look at GPAs, look at the classes they’ve taken, look at their recommendations; Christ, you could even try talking to them. Don’t continue to subject us to the pointless and degrading ordeal of standardized tests.

I am sorry for that diatribe, ’cause I bet that I was basically just screaming at the choir. But goddamn, it did feel good to write it down. Fuck you, ETS.

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Written by Daniel Grady

October 28, 2005 at 19:16

Posted in Rants

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