Like many things traced back in time, it is said that perhaps the first recorded use of standardized tests originated in China, according to Time magazine, where applicants looking for government jobs were quizzed on their knowledge of the canons of Confucianism. More known in today’s world are those SATs and ACTs used by colleges to measure student achievement. Recently, a new trend has emerged with many colleges going “test-optional.” The supporters of colleges not requiring standardized test scores believe that those exams are biased toward wealthy families that have more access than others to resources such as better schools and prep classes. As an immigrant and first generation college applicant, I consider standardized tests to be highly unfair. I believe that they are stripping me of many opportunities and holding me back. I would love to apply to elite, Ivy League schools but I’m afraid to even try. I feel that I don’t even stand a chance because they will put me in the “no” pile simply by opening my test scores. I’m not the only one feeling so pessimistic. Despite having excellent GPAs and a broad range of extracurricular activities, many of us feel locked into applying to other colleges because our test scores are not up to the supposed standard marks. We don’t even get a chance to convey who we are to colleges before getting pushed to the sidelines. If we compare ourselves with privileged kids, we see that they have been preparing for their futures from an early age. If all colleges made it optional to submit test scores, students would get a better chance to show what they’re capable of doing in a school environment rather than filling in bubbles in a matter of a few hours.
Many perspectives have been discussed in the United States about how immigrant students should be taught. Some schools are addressing the situation by giving students courses in their native languages. Others argue that teaching classes only in English will be better because students will have the opportunity to learn the language of their new country. Some believe that hosting English-only classes will make immigrant students suffer academically and emotionally.
They can lose time trying to master subjects because they cannot understand the lessons. This can lead to discouragement and dropping out. Further, it may send a message that their native languages are not worthy. However, I do not throw my culture away for a language. I am from Haiti. I still keep the routine of speaking Haitian Creole with friends and family. It is important to stay connected to your country by keeping your native language. Still, to graduate and move on to college, you need to take tests in English. Speaking English as much as possible in school allows you to expand your chances of finding a job. Being bilingual allows you to help more people. The faster you learn English, the quicker you will have a chance to succeed.
Fifteen-year-old Markanthony Williams, from the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, thinks that school grades do not reflect real intelligence. “They show obedience,” he says. Even as standardized testing is being roundly criticized for not measuring true brainpower, some teens feel that grades also don’t always reveal their smarts. “Grades display the students who work hard from the students who don’t,” says Pablo Rodriguez, 16, from the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers. Yet teens say there are those whose grades don’t tell the true story of their skill level because they are not challenged by the work and simply tune out their teachers. Naa-Juah Benton, 15, from Snowden International, says that her report card doesn’t always match her wisdom because teachers grading systems can be inconsistent.This article was prepared in collaboration with 826 Boston.
The call went out from the Boston Public Library to young people: submit a piece of your own work and win two seats to the December 1 talk, and copies of the new book, by Sister Souljah (fan fiction or art based on the world in her novels or a compelling question you’d want to ask her). Here is a version of Teens in Print reporter Antaliyah Maxwell’s winning poem (referencing “The Coldest Winter Ever”) and her account of encountering the hiphop recording artist and author.When I first arrived at the Copley library teen center, it was noisy, with more than 70 people there. Ten minutes later, when Sister Souljah walked in, it instantly became silent. All eyes were on her. Sister Souljah introduced her new Midnight book to us, “A Moment of Silence,” and explained that the title represented all the danger, temptation, and adventure it contained. After she asked for questions, a young woman stood up and started sobbing. “I don’t have a question, but I wanted to say…. your books helped me through so many struggles….Thank you.” Sister Souljah began to tear up herself and told the woman that she is a strong young lady. I got teary, too. I was fascinated by how easily Sister Souljah presented herself and spread such positive energy. “People say things like ‘Don’t judge me,’ ’’ Sister Souljah told the crowd. “This is one of the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life….The creator gave each of us a mind -- so that we can think. Eyes -- so that we can observe. Thoughts -- so that we can measure things out. All day long, every single individual in this room is making judgments….You made a judgment about what to wear…who you want to be friends with and who you don’t want to be friends with….Constructive criticism….I come from the era of free speech….It’s OK if we don’t agree. Let’s debate it out.” Her statement made me realize that to judge people does not mean to put them down. It is to make an impact on their lives by having them open their eyes to the reality they need to face. As she was signing our books, I let her know that I admired her. She looked up at me and smiled and thanked me so genuinely. After she inscribed my name in the book, she added these words: “An explosion in your soul!!”
Eighteen-year-old My Nguyen understands the need to be cautious about who the government lets into the country -- especially after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris -- but doesn’t see the need to close the doors completely to refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War and ISIS.
“We should still be careful but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be helping,” says Nguyen, from the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science.
“Humans are humans and they all deserve a right to be safe and have a home.”
President Barack Obama has vowed to welcome some 10,000 Syrian refugees into America over the next year while many Republicans are calling for a full-on refusal.
The issue took on added urgency after it was reported that one of the Paris assailants had posed as a Syrian refugee.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll released last month, US voters by a 51 percent to 43 percent margin oppose accepting Syrian refugees into the country.
Still, many teens say they are outraged that anyone would want to declare the US out of bounds to Syrian castaways.
“There are many women and children along with them in fear of their lives -- to leave them out to die is horrible,” says Mary Flaherty, 17, from Boston Latin School.
“These people are actually fleeing ISIS so for us to shut the doors on them would mean ISIS actually had won.”
As for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s pledge to temporarily bar all Muslims at the border if he is elected, 17-yearold Luul Hassan, from Boston Green Academy, has a blunt response. “He’s disgusting,” says Hassan, who is a Muslim, “and the fact that people are supporting him makes me sick.”
This article was prepared in collaboration with 826 Boston.