Last week, Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati announced that 17 of its students achieved a perfect 36 on the ACT College Admissions test. Schools are on board with more aggressive preparation because they, the schools, are increasingly measured by student performance on standardized tests. Parents are on board because they hope to see the financial benefits a higher test score can bring. The test prep industry is on board because last year they earned more than 30 billion dollars off our children.
Alvin Zhang, valedictorian at Mason High School, in Mason Cincinnati, stood in front of his peers and admitted he had regrets: “If I had it to do over again I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to become valedictorian. I don’t think overworking yourself for better grades is worth it.”
But what’s a parent to do? At one local high school, Biology is out unless you want to study AP (Advanced Placement) Biology. AP classes were introduced in the 60’s for seniors who had exhausted the typical high school curriculum. Now those classes have trickled down to juniors and even sophomores. At many high schools— both public and private— students are told if you want to get into a good college you need to be taking college level courses (AP) before you even get your driver’s license and a full 10 years before the government expects you to come off your parent’s health insurance.
Crazy times! It’s hard to trust that scooping ice cream or being a day camp counselor will be more valuable in the long run than spending the summer prepping for the ACT. It’s hard to trust that young people have the smarts to succeed in life without a perfect score. It’s hard to comprehend that even if you do everything required of you to get that perfect score, only 1 of Walnut Hill’s perfect 17 will get into Harvard—Harvard only wants 1 student from any high school—and that student may well be a legacy who does not have a perfect 36.
Parents, act now—sign those kids up for a summer job! Employment is low. Many businesses and camps are looking to hire help over the summer. Let them learn about real life first hand. Let them control the money for that new pair of sneakers, that new mountain bike, or new gaming system. If asked, most adults will tell you about their first summer job. They will probably have some pretty good stories to go along with it.
My first job was as an assistant swim coach. I think I earned in the range of $1.50 an hour. I was saving up for my first pair of skis. For lunch everyday I would hit up the snack bar for large cups of ice and my love of ice crunching was born. I also managed over thirty 7- and 8-year-old swimmers, dealt with parents, found volunteers for meets, and taught a heck of a lot of butterfly. That job gave me the confidence to know I could stand on my own feet no matter where the world took me. No prep class could have done that!