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.

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20 Responses to Weather Wimps and the ACT

  1. Erin Davis says:

    Because I did not take this ACT I’m not 100% sure on how all of this went down, and I feel like each testing site dealt with this situation differently. But I believe that total cancelation could have been avoided especially considering everyone was already there taking the test. It would have been one thing if they would have canceled the night before, this happened to me when I went to take the December ACT in Gulfport because of the snow. But canceling the ACT in the middle of the test is quite annoying. I feel like something they could have done to prevent total cancelation would have been to stop testing after the section they were currently on was complete and then wait out the weather to resume testing. No, this solution is not flawless because if they were 30 minutes into the math section there’s 30 more minutes remaining. In a true weather disaster 30 minutes can be life or death, and I don’t know about you, but ACT will not be the death of me. From what I have heard though the weather experienced was not considered life threatening, and I fully respect Mother Nature, but in this specific case it did not seem to be a huge threat, so I feel like the students taking the ACT could have finished the section they were on then take a break for the weather. I feel like the biggest problem was that they stopped testing in the middle of a section which messed up the timing of the test.

  2. Sabrina Solomon says:

    I also HATE the ACT. I took it one last and final time in Meridian for the April ACT date. We also were stopped for storms and no one cared that everyone was on their phones. We then proceeded to test and I got my scores within the next 3 weeks. We were safe inside and nothing would stop the proctors from avoiding testing again. So, we continued testing. I seriously doubt that anything of the pause in testing was reported to ACT. I was just glad to get it over with. I understand the protocols in place and believe that the proctors made the right decision. But some students really wanted those scores for applications and such. I just don’t see how the standardized test is the best way to judge a students capabilities.

  3. Millie Perdue says:

    Ahh. The ever haunting ACT. As a student with very high test anxiety and even worse performance said tests, I felt every single student that walked out of those testing rooms with nothing to show for their hard work. My roommate was a victim of the flubernucked test, but when released from the testing location, was expected to walk through the severe weather that canceled her test back to the dorm. Just sayin’ if you can walk in “severe weather” safely, then was it really worth canceling the test?

  4. Sophia says:

    While I can understand the concern the ACT may have about students speaking in the hallway and compromising test integrity, it is certainly unfair for the students to have to deal with the uncertainty of retaking the ACT all over again.

  5. August Andre says:

    Let my start off by saying this.
    I was a victim of this ACT thunderstorm clusterf**k.

    Not only did I follow all of the procedures including going to bed early, studying, eating breakfast, etc. but also I had completed half the test and was feeling good about it. Then they took us to the halls, and told us that the tests were going to be voided. The weather cleared. I had wasted my weekend, and had to take it the week after. I am also concerned with the test score returns as mine have not come in yet. It has been over 3 weeks since the original ACT date and the registration for the next test has already past its late registration date. I am very annoyed at this and wish we were allowed to continue with the test or at least resume it after it was safe to do so.

    Sincerely,
    an unhappy test taker
    🙁

  6. Jacob Lee says:

    Instances like this should be taken into account by ACT and testing organization alike to revise their policies. I believe polices involving weather and extreme circumstances should exist and be in place, but with some variability. In cases like this, where the test could have continued without much of a problem, the options provided should not have been the only one. ACT should trust their proctors and administrators to keep answers from being shared and they should also designate one of the faculty to observe the situation and determine what actually is the best approach. In this situation, a faculty could have taken into account the weather and offered three options: those who wish to leave can and can reschedule the date, those who wish to leave can leave and score the categories they have taken, or those who wish to can stay and finish the test. For extreme circumstances, however, complete cancellation of the test should be issued, but for issues of less severity something similar tot he options above should be provided.

  7. Theresa Ho says:

    Honestly, until there is an actual tornado near by the school, there shouldn’t be a reason to stop the ACT because of how time consuming, expensive, and important it is to the students taking it. Of course, there are some students who need to be completely focused in taking the test without any distractions, but I don’t think they should have cancelled the whole thing. This is a really bad thing for me to say, but whenever there is a tornado siren going on in my hometown, I usually ignore it because there is usually just high winds and rain whenever one comes on in the middle of the day or night. I’m not too worried about a tornado hitting my house, its unlikely. During the ACT testing, I was in the dorms and when the tornado siren came on, there was literally just light rain pouring. I know that the adults are just doing their jobs, but they made us stay downstairs even when we had the notification that it was all clear and when the ACT test takers had walked back. Until the power goes out in the building or if you actually hear the strong wind, I don’t think that the weather is bad.

  8. Jacob Neal says:

    This is by far, one of the most unfair things in education. When some external factors affect an important event and those in charge tell everyone involved that ‘that’s the way it is.’ I hope to high heavens that those people were given a free voucher or something to have a free ACT exam because now the students just lost however much they paid for the exam because it DOES COST MONEY TO TAKE THE TEST. And the only other possibility is getting a sub-par score at best. Even some of the smartest people need the whole time before getting the best score that they can get.

  9. Luong Huynh says:

    First of all, I would like to apologize for the inconvenience that you and your son are experiencing. I do agree that the tornado warning reaction was more severe than the weather itself. However, I think that stopping the ACT was a fair decision because the ACT is a standardized test, and having tornado alarm wailing or students pausing for 20 minutes is not considered standard. Also, resuming the ACT can have adverse effects in that the students will lose time trying to regain testing mindset and momentum.

    One possible way that our school could have handled the tornado warning with minimal disruption is to stop the students and let the students shelter in their desk like how Lutcher High School handled the situation. The proctors will be able to monitor every student in their room and as soon as the tornado warning is lifted, students can immediately resume their test. I’m not certain the set up of Lutcher High School classroom, but MSMS testing room have lots of windows, so if we chose to do that, our administration has to be very certain that the storm can’t turn into something severe. As Kaelon previously stated, the liability for the school is too high for our school to take the risk.

    I’m really glad that the retest went smoothly. Best of luck to your son and you, sir!
    ————————
    Attached is th Lutcher High School Facebook post:
    https://www.facebook.com/LutcherHighSchool/posts/2267602690133477

  10. Reagan Conner says:

    This situation is frustrating. After suffering through 10 ACT tests, I understand how inconvenient it is when testing does not go as planned. Thankfully, I never had a test cancelled. The ACT in itself is a pain; of course it’s necessary, but I don’t feel that my score adequately reflects my intelligence. The test is full of tricks and the four hour process is exhausting. For a student to prepare and get halfway through the test, only to be told that they don’t have the opportunity to finish, is annoying. I do understand though. They must take all factors into consideration and know that not all schools can be trusted to hold down a situation like this. I’ve had proctors that talked during the test and didn’t walk around once. The ACT is right to have cancelled the test, but they should have rescheduled to an earlier date.

  11. Loveish Sarolia says:

    The ACT’s testing protocols in the event of safety are very aggravating I agree, however, if they were not in place then the ACT would lose million per year by parents worried about the conditions of their students. This summer I took the ACT on June 10, or at least I was supposed to. I studied for weeks on end, cramming in preparation for that fateful day. On the day of testing, I arrived at the center at the J.G. International School in Ahmedabad, India ready to test, I spoke to the headmaster and asked about my room assignment and when it would begin. I was given an answer with which I was not entertained: the ACT was canceled due to a test security compromise. I looked at her and I thought.. “Are you freaking kidding me?” although the word freaking wasn’t really what I had in mind. I did not receive a notification regarding this issue and the testing center was 7 hours from my home so it wasn’t the most pleasant drive. I looked at the ACT website and I realized that in the ENTIRE world my test center was the only one canceled that day and I could’ve chosen ANY other center in India and it would have been open, ready for testing. I ended up taking the test on July 1 and I, to this day, wonder how much better I would have performed if I took it on the original date. My point of this long story was to explain that although it was infuriating for me to not be able to take the test, I accept that the risk of losing test confidentiality would have been far worse than canceling one center’s test where only two students were testing.

  12. Kendra Bradley says:

    While I agree that stopping this test altogether was a bit ridiculous, there is not much the ACT gods could do. Allowing MSMS to be an exception would require them to allow other schools this same privilege or risk appearing partial to our school. With that in mind, they have to prioritize the safety of the students over the discretion of the teachers. This is unfortunate, but necessary.

  13. Helen Peng says:

    Its almost ironic to think that that I was almost one of those people who were ushered out of the testing room April ACT day. ( Thankfully I lacked confidence in my ability to cram for this test.) As a student who has terrible testing anxiety and seemingly pure bad luck when it comes to standardized tests, I know that I would be infuriated if I was in this situation: weeks and weeks of hard work thrown down the drain because of Mother Nature’s temper tantrum.
    Still, however, safety guidelines are implemented for a reason. Although its frustrating to think something as simple as the day’s weather was the deciding factor of ACT tests’ turn-out (which seems to be the deciding factor’s in our education and future) safety does comes first and sometimes the ‘what ifs’ of a situation need to be taken into consideration. Given the situation of tornado sirens wailing and tornado watch alerts pestering our phones, canceling the test was the right option.
    In terms of cancelling scores or processing them as-is, cancelling scores is the right option. Its not even a matter of trust or fairness for the situation, as ACT has already proven an inability to capture the diverse intellectual capacity students. Instead, it is a game of importance and ACT should recognize the hierarchy of ‘safety first’ before even considering the possibly of failed test security.
    Overall, standardizes tests are a hateful thing enforced onto all students this age. Whether or not these tests are fair are out of question– they are likely staying around for a while. Its frustrating to think that hardworking can all be poured down the drain because of something as uncontrollable and unpredictable as the weather but rationality in some cases must come before empathy in others.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

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