It has been awhile since Dr. Jason Glass and Dr. Scott Mcleod sat through an ACT exam but I want to take some time to reflect on that event and what it says to me. It is worthwhile to read both Dr. Glass‘ and Dr. Mcleod’s thoughts on their experiences.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about since hearing and reading about this experiment:
I was immediately struck by the consistency of the test scores by both test takers. Jason’s 27 mirrored his score from 20-plus years before as did Scott’s (based upon a rough comparison between his SAT scores and his 34 on the ACT). My immediate thought was that the test obviously was unable to show the depth and breadth of the learning and experiences of these two men over the past 20 years. It likely, then, wasn’t too sensitive to any learning outside the purely academic that the two experienced in the 18 years prior to their taking it the first time.
Jason and Scott were obviously much more than their scores in the 80′s just like they are so much more than their scores now. Both are bright, talented, accomplished, passionate, and professional. For 2o years they amassed a whole host of new skills, understandings, experiences, insights, and knowledge yet their scores remained the same. These two men are who they are because of their experiences, the mentors they chose, the learning they embarked on and the people they interacted with – something not even the finest of standardized tests could get at. Why? True learning and understanding escapes our ability to measure it directly. I know that freaks out those who demand a number but learning is like love – you can’t measure it directly, you can only see its manifestations.
If the experiment showed me anything it was this: these dipstick measures (pun perhaps intended) do truly only show 10% or less of who a person is and what they know yet they account for arguably 90% or more of how a school or person is evaluated. I don’t know much about the 10% of them that was evaluated on the ACT (I’ve never discussed nonlinear equations or analyzed The Scarlet Letter with either of them), but I have interacted with the other 90% of each man. Their interactions and actions help us all to see who they are and what they are capable of. Would they be different people if they had scored 24′s? 20′s? 36′s? One things for sure: if you were in college with them in a traditional class where the game was collecting points, spitting out facts from the lectures, or – worse yet – being graded on the curve, I would certainly have invited them into my study group! But I would have gained far more by being their friend and colleague talking about things we wanted to do, current events, philosophy, etc.