Wednesday, March 09, 2005


I was listening to NPR and they were doing a story about the "new" SAT tests. The focus of the story was that when kids go take the SAT this year they will be required to write an essay, and how this would affect immigrant and ESL kids and well, most of the kids taking the test, because writing is not taught in high school. So the contention is that a message will be sent to high schools that they need to have more classes on writing and that more classes require papers to be written. They also said that these new tests will carry the potential of 2400 points.

Oh my God.

When I completed my first year in a public high school all the cute guys graduated so in the interest of procuring a car so that we could continue to party with those boys my best friend Lori and I talked our parents into sending us to private school. Of course we told them we wanted to go because we were bored and not learning anything at public school. This was true, but the upside to little challenge was that we were able to ditch every period but second period, which was the class where they took attendance in order to get money. Or something like that.

At any rate, we ended up at Chadwick, a prep school in Palos Verdes. Two students in our class had been caught with weed and asked to leave so there were two spaces in the class of 44 students. We had to take an entrance exam that consisted of critical reading and an essay. This meant that I, a product of the public school system which does not in fact teach students to write, had to read something from The Old Man and the Sea and then answer questions about it in essay form.

I was accepted to Chadwick, but due to the fact that all of my essay answers began with a capital letter and ended a page or so later with a period indicated to the administrators that I needed to learn how to write. I was placed in mandatory expository writing classes EVERY semester until I graduated. I was a mad wicked comma splicer. I still am. I have no fucking idea what the semi-colon actually does.

But I did learn to write. I learned to think critically and express myself articulately via the written word. I've always been a natural spelling champ, probably because I grew up reading so much that words are familiar. If you know how they're supposed to look you know if they're spelled incorrectly.

I WISH there had been essay questions on the SAT. I suck at multiple choice because I get in a hurry, or I'm over it and want to be done. I hate being proctored and having to sit at a desk with my two number 2 pencils and my ID and nothing else. The whole atmosphere of those kinds of tests are anxiety producing and lead me to screw up. I did okay on my SATs, but I could have kicked ass if I'd gotten the opportunity to write.

Not so long ago I took the CBEST so that I could substitute teach if I so desired. This is a proctored test that they do a couple times a year. I signed up for it and then forgot that I did so I never studied and went out to dinner the night before and had a couple martinis. I only remembered right before I went to bed and decided that if I felt like it when I woke up I'd go. I woke up a little late, but since I paid I decided I should go and do it anyway.

Clutching my driver's license and my two #2 pencils, wearing sweatpants and wreaking of alcohol I slumped in the desk and the basically mailed in the answers. There were two mulitple choice sections one for reading comprehension and one for math and there were three essay questions, all of which were to be completed in three hours. I finished in an hour, forty five minutes, rolled home and went back to bed.

A couple weeks later I got my results and I'd passed the freaking test! I aced the essays and barely squeaked by on the math. So now I can go substitute teach in public schools if I want. If I ever do that I'll tell everyone that story and we'll spend the day learning to write. Even if it's a math class.

Hell, especially if it's a math class.

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