Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Testing 1, 2, 3

If you're the kind of person who likes organization and planning ahead, and if you're also the kind of person who suddenly finds herself with a teenage daughter ... well ... you can just kiss all that order good-bye. The thing to keep in mind is that your life and (especially) your schedule are no longer your own.

About three weeks ago, my daughter sent me a text from school. (This, btw, happens all the time. Not just with me and my daughter but with every mom and every daughter I know. It continues to surprise me that the school lets kids text while they're in class. Sheesh! But, I'll stop before I sound like an even older old lady than I actually am.) Here's the text:

can you sign me up for world history sat? i'm late so there will be a late fee

There was a little emoticon sad face referring, I assume, to the additional fee. (No "Hello," though. No "Thank you.") 

I was walking when I received the message and I thought that thanks to the miracle of modern mobile I would be able to register her for the test from my phone.


Turns out, when you go online to the College Board (the organization that manages all the standardized testing), you practically need security clearance from the CIA. Not only do they warn you that the process takes 20 minutes, but you have to upload an official photo of the test-taker (would that be the testee?). I didn't have one handy and when I went to get it, I timed out. So, the 20-minute process was more of a 38-minute process. The late fee wasn't so bad, but finding an available venue proved to be.

My daughter's high school was no longer available (read, "sold out," like a Rolling Stones concert, although probably quieter and with less drugs). None of the schools in a 5-mile radius were available. Or a 10-mile radius. Or 20. Or 50. I found a location in Rhode Island, one in New Hampshire, and one in Maine. So what did I do? Booked a different location in New York. It's my hometown and we were planning a visit anyway.

We drove down Friday afternoon, arriving at about 8:45 pm. My daughter had to arrive at the downtown high school early (early, early), so we went to bed soon after. The next morning, we took two subways (and an unexpected cab; one "local" turned out to be an "express") and arrived exactly when the official paperwork said to be there.

I guess the official paperwork didn't know what it was talking about. We stood outside the school (with about 1,200 other nervous teenagers) for 40 minutes. Finally, a guard came by and asked all the "subject SAT" people to go on in. I gave my girl a quick squeeze and headed off.

The test was supposed to be an hour. Some quick math and I predicted she's be done by about 9:45. This gave me 75 minutes to explore Chinatown and the lower Eastside. I timed it well and arrived back at our meeting place (Union Square park) at quarter to ten. In some ways (although not in the way that mattered most), my timing was perfect. I had just sat down when I received a text:

hi mom, it's me we haven't started yet

Uh-oh. I had at least another 60 minutes to kill. I bought an iced decaf with soy milk and trolled around the Nordstrom Rack, which was just opening. Eventually, I found a couple of those free newspapers and sat and read them. Finally (a mere four hours after we'd arrived for her one-hour test), I received the last text:

leaving now will meet you in park

'Turns out my daughter and another 35 students had spent the first two hours sitting in a school hallway (where my daughter had the pleasure of seeing not one, not two but three gigantic cockroaches). Apparently, they didn't have enough proctors. This was inconvenient for us, but would have been downright maddening if my daughter, like many of her fellow test-takers, had been there to take multiple exams.

This was her first SAT, and the way I look at it, the system let us down in more than a few ways.

Why did no one (neither her guidance counselor, who has her class schedule, or her AP World History teacher) clue us in to the fact that it would be a good idea to schedule the exam this spring? She learned about it, by accident, in the cafeteria. Thus the late fee (and proverbial fire drill).

Why did more than a thousand kids have to stand online outside the school when they had arrived on time, as requested?

Why were there not enough proctors?

And why were there more than enough cockroaches?

The SATs are terrifying enough. It seems to me that all the additional angst could have been avoided. Except, maybe the cockroaches. It's NYC, after all. 

I think we'll stay closer to home the next time.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com. 

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