Weather Wimps and the ACT

Some people take to standardized tests like ducks take to water. They view such tests as a high-stakes form of entertainment, or as a validation of years’ worth of academic preparation. I was one of those people.

My oldest son is not.

For the last month-and-a-half, we have gotten up at 5:45 a.m. four days a week to sneak in some confidence-building test prep for today’s ACT. Today’s test was supposed to be the culmination of even more work  than that–two sessions with a fairly expensive tutor, Saturdays spent taking practice tests, extra visits to a math teacher.

Then the tornado sirens wailed, and the test takers had to go into the hallway to wait for the all clear. And wait. And wait. Calls were made, and the word came from on high that the test takers had the option of cancelling scores and getting to take the test again at a later date, or processing the scores but getting zeroes on the incomplete sections.

Sticking around to complete the exam was not an option. Test takers and their parents were expected to shrug benignly and say, “It is what it is.”

So here’s what I have to say to the higher-ups at the ACT. If you don’t trust the people you hired to proctor the test in situations like these without compromising test security, then you ought to re-examine your hiring practices. But you’d be silly to do that here. My MSMS colleagues who administer the test are absolutely above reproach. Hooper Science Building was as secure a location as one could have outside of Fort Knox. There were no cell phones out. There were enough adults there to prevent table talk. Concerns over test security were ludicrous. I can only conclude that we’ve been forced to live by a protocol that applies to other places. Round hole, meet square peg.

As for weather alarmists everywhere: a heavy thunderstorm came through the Golden Triangle of Mississippi. Big. Fat. Hairy. Deal. I’ve watched my kids play soccer in weather as bad as what came through our corner of Columbus. If my kids can do that outside, then it’s surely safe to take the ACT inside.

I’m not talking about ignoring a Category 5 hurricane bearing down on the coast. I’m not talking about mowing the grass with a tornado whirling in plain sight three miles away. I’m talking about taking a test inside while there’s thunder and lightning outside.

I’m also talking about a three-week period in the not-so-distant future where my son and I will be up very early four days a week to prepare once again for a test that he hates.

This entry was posted in Education. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Weather Wimps and the ACT

  1. Samantha Anderson says:

    I agree with the fact that testing should have been resumed. Of course, if a tornado is actually going on somewhere near, there should be safety precautions taken while the weather is still a threat. However, I think that the setup of the safety precautions should observed and considered when making the decision on whether or not the test should be rescheduled.

  2. Jaylen Hopson says:

    As you have said before, it is sometimes better to play the “devil’s advocate” on scenarios such as this one. Imagine you are the top dog in charge of the ACT. Any and all responsibilities and consequences of the test fall on you. Now imagine you have locked a room full of young people in a room where you have no idea of how safe they are, and their parents have no way of contacting them. Finally, imagine that this is happening across and entire state threatened by bright red contrasting the green on the weather channel. In this situation, you do not have the luxury of picking and choosing which schools can and cannot take the test as time is of the essence and you have limited data to use. In this light, many would believe that it is much easier and safer to err on the side of caution and offer students a retake on the next test day. Now, they could have risked the students safety in order to let them complete their test, but the deep-seeded fear of natural disasters present in nearly all members of the South would inevitably and adversely affect each students performance.

    I concede that your situation is one that makes the decision seem rash and uncalled for, but I believe that this is the exception, not the majority. On the other end of the spectrum, there could be students who couldn’t care less about the ACT but still had to be in the least secure test-taking environment with ill-prepared staff. Those in charge of the administration of the ACT made the decision to value student’s safety over student’s personal opinion. This is a similar to what I imagine parents must go on a daily basis regarding their children.

  3. Dev Jaiswal says:

    As someone who also hates the ACT, I completely understand your frustrations. If I had been one of those testing on Saturday, I would have been very annoyed to learn that the test has been cancelled. However, I agree with why the decision to cancel the test had to be made. I do not think it would have been appropriate to continue testing after the tornado siren wailed. Safety comes first, and testing should not continue under a tornado warning. Secondly, I think it is reasonable to say that continuing to test after the expiration of the warning is unfair because students in areas that experienced a tornado warning get a considerable amount of time (the duration of the warning) to rest during the middle of the ACT, a privilege that students taking an uninterrupted test do not have.

  4. Indu Nandula says:

    Let me start off by saying that I, myself, was not one of those students who participated in the ACT testing this past Saturday. Secondly, though it is a bummer that the testing was not able to be carried out in its authority, I am very glad that my peers are safe. I definitely understand that it is cumbersome to not only the test-takers, but to proctors and administrators of the test, and even for those parents of the test-takers. However, I do believe that no matter how much of an inconvenience the circumstances of Saturday were, in the case of a standardized test, or any situation, safety should always come first. Parents have entrusted the lives of their children to the MSMS staff, and it is their duty to take care of the students, no matter the circumstances. I definitely understand your frustration, but in the end, safety comes first.

  5. Faith Ivy says:

    What you have written is no true and I totally understand where you are coming from. I was not one of the students that took the ACT this past Saturday, but when I heard about the situation, I was frustrated with them. I honestly do not see why the students could not resume taking the test. Like you said, phones had already been taken up and they cannot talk about what questions they had because the talk was monitored. Also, the options they gave were ridiculous! What was going through their heads when making the two choices. The option to take it later is understandable, but people are busy during the summer months with summer vacation trips that have already been planned or in the process of being planned, summer programs, and so much more. Students and faculty already had to take time out of their bust schedules to take/ proctor the test. The second option is not the best choice either. I heard that the students only got to take two sections, which means there were two sections that would be scored as 0. That is not fair at all. But maybe that is just me.

  6. Lane Hughes says:

    This is a completely true statement, and I have no issues with anything that you’ve written. I was not taking the test; however, I had people tell me that the sections they were allowed to take were the easiest they had ever seen. When a student says this, it can mean two things: either they were right and the questions were really easy or they were wrong and they messed up the entire section. As MSMS students, I feel that we can accurately ascertain which of these choices is true, and I 100% believe that these students were cheated out of better scores, whether they were just more prepared or not. On that note, if you would like some help with ACT tutoring, I would recommend bringing your son to one of the MSMS STEP Club meetings. These meetings help me get the score I wanted on the ACT in February, and I believe that next year we will revamp the club to bring more personalized and simply better Standardized Test Preparation.

  7. Kaelon McNeece says:

    While it can be frustrating to be forced to retake the test due to weather that never proved to be worse than some wind and lightning, these protocols are implemented to prevent the harm of any test-taker or proctor of the test. Imagine if, instead of falling flat like today’s tornado warning has, the tornado warning had yielded a brutal tornado that had come through campus and tore the roof off of Hooper. Then, the safety protocols implemented by the company seem a little less ridiculous. This was all to ensure the safety of students, and while it may not seem like a big problem to those witnessing the storm, to the ACT company, it would look like an ignored tornado watch if the proctors so chose to continue testing.

    I did not take the ACT today, but I’d assume that they followed standard tornado drill protocol by having students all line the hallways in the vertical fetal position. In this scenario, even the best proctor wouldn’t be able to keep every student from uttering so much as the slightest whisper to another. However, I do agree that the students, adults, and proctors were all respectful and committed enough towards fair testing to prevent it. However, special exceptions cannot be made since it can create objectively better testing zones which will create an unfair balance of testing conditions. The amount of variability among possible student respectfulness and the unpredictability/student closeness present in storm protocols forces the ACT to provide a fair opportunity to all students taking the test simply by calling it off.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *