Denying Eyes

April 28th, 2011

The NFL draft begins tonight – which means a few young men barely of drinking age will wear $1,000 suits and smile broadly for the ESPN cameras, rejoicing that they are instant millionaires… and fortunate not to be selected by the Oakland Raiders.

A peculiarity of this annual rite of football passage is how personnel directors and draft experts often skip right past a player’s four-year record of success on the field and downgrade him because a 40-yard dash time was one-tenth of a second slow. Similarly, they’ll elevate someone who delivered average game results to near superstar status because he excelled in the 3-cone drill.

“Yeah, I know he set rushing records down there in Florida, but he’s too small to compete at the next level and he’s a step slow. He might have a brief career as a backup. That’s why we project a low second-round selection for Emmitt Smith.”

A similar approach for determining potential results occurs in our education system. This week here in Texas students are enduring the annual TAKS test – a standardized assessment that for some determines whether they advance to the next grade.

While the intentions are good – see what students know – there are two inherent problems with this tactic. First, teachers spend an inordinate amount of time ‘teaching to the test’ because they are judged on how well their class performs. Schools hold TAKS pep rallies throughout the year to motivate and encourage kids. Second, students miss out on the opportunity to broaden their learning, because, as one of our child’s teachers said, ‘There isn’t enough time for that with all this TAKS stuff.’

Instead of judging success on whether kids know the methods and tricks for answering multiple-choice questions, education leaders should measure how well their students are prepared for futures in this fast-changing world.

Once that’s accomplished, perhaps they will do away with the SAT as the biggest determining factor for college acceptance. From my experience – both as a graduate and the father of a student at the University of Texas – how you perform one Saturday during your senior year of high school has little to do with your ultimate success in college.

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