Joco Diversions

Forget the ACT, college process should be about what student plans to achieve

Behold. a high stack of books to study to get a high ACT score.
Behold. a high stack of books to study to get a high ACT score.

Colleges need an overhaul. Let’s start with the expense. The University of Kansas now costs more than $25,000 a year. It might be just me, but I don’t think getting a degree from an in-state school should hit that mark.

Once upon a time, going to a public university in your home state made college affordable.

Another thing that needs a reset are the machinations students and parents feel they’re required to go through to increase their chances of getting into college. As I write this actress Felicity Huffman is prisoner #77806-112 at a federal correction facility in Northern California.

Her crime was paying $15,000 to have her daughter’s SAT score enhanced — and I’m talking richly enhanced. According to documents filed in the case, her daughter’s score jumped a whopping 400 points above her PSAT performance. I don’t think this math problem is on the SAT but that works out to Huffman paying $37.50 per point.

At first glance, change appears to be in the air. Earlier this month the ACT announced that in 2020 they will be introducing “scoring reforms” that will allow students to retake select parts of the test (English, math, reading, science or writing). In the past a student had to retake the entire test and couldn’t zero in on the one or two areas where they wanted to improve their score.

Based on my social media feeds there was parental jubilation that this change was happening. There were also people posting that if back in the day they had been allowed to only retake one section instead of the entire ACT, they probably could have gotten close to a perfect score. (Please note I was not one of these people. I could have taken the math section 50 times and that score wouldn’t have budged much if at all.)

I was excited by this news for all the future test takers until I did more research and my head began to feel like it was going to explode. First, apparently there’s no limit on how many times you can take the test. Then there’s something called “super scoring” where you take the best score of each section you’ve retaken. When I got to the part about all the different scenarios on how to improve your score from paper testing vs. computer testing to something called “total focus recall,” I was in pain.

That intensified when I read articles how the “scoring reforms” were all just a ploy by the ACT to make more money from the anticipated torrent of retesting. (Today it costs $68 to take the ACT. Add in another $52 for the writing test. No word yet from the ACT on how much they’re going to charge for “individual section retesting.”)

Educators were also pointing out that the ability to repeatedly retake sections of the ACT was going to hurt economically disadvantage students who can’t afford the cost of test-taking to infinity and beyond. Several shrewd high school counselors fearlessly announced that it was just giving parents another tool to work the system.

After I took two Advil, it made me glad my kids were out of the ACT and SAT game. It’s gotten crazy. When did the college process become so complicated? And are parents responsible for the craziness? It’s gotten to the point where parents act like their kid’s ACT score is also their parenting score?

The college process needs a reality check and it should start with telling kids that it should be less about where you go to college and more about what you do once you get there.

Reach Sherry Kuehl at snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs on Instagram @snarky.in.the.suburbs, and snarkyinthesuburbs.com
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