The ACT: Homeschool Necessity

Earlier in the semester, I said that “beyond the single oddity of the ACT, the standardized test has been unknown to me, and its absence has not hurt me.” I now realize that this is not necessarily true. The ACT has allowed me to pursue my homeschool education. I now know that I had misunderstood the objective of the standardized test. It is not an educational/teaching tool, nor should it be treated as such. It is a measurement tool. In the case of the ACT, it is a gauge of academic ability.

I have had a change of heart. Without a standardized test like the ACT, my self-reported homeschool GPA would have been laughed out of the college admissions office. Instead, I can take a test that measures my academic learning and categorizes me based on a national standard. In essence, my parents were able to pursue a less traditional and more experimental form of education for myself without being penalized for the lack of credibility associated with it.

Furthermore, not all schools are created equal. Some high schools are more academically rigorous than others which explains why a kid with a 4.0 GPA may get an 18 on his/her ACT whereas another kid with a 3.0 GPA at a different high school may get a 25 on the ACT. A standardized test like the ACT accounts for the difference in pedagogical approaches and the intensity of an institution’s curriculum. From this angle, I now see the ACT as an equalizer among schools and educational philosophies.

However, the Act still has its issues. I still question the accuracy of the ACT. In my own experience, the ACT is an easily coachable test. For a test that is supposed to measure one’s entire academic learning, I was able to boost my initial grade of 18 to 28 within a short period after taking an ACT prep course. Furthermore, socioeconomic status also comes into play regarding access to learning resources, such as a prep class or prep materials. Regardless, I have a new appreciation for the ACT. I now applaud the standardized nature of the ACT and the ability the test provides for individuals to venture outside the conventional realm of education.


A Homeschooler’s Background, Education, and Introduction to the Standardized Test

My name is Benjamin Isaiah Gall; call me Ben. I am a sophomore student at Tusculum University studying business (with accounting concentration) as my major, and I am working towards two minors in criminal justice and tax.

I was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, and I lived in that state for 16 years out of my 20 years of life. For most of my life, my family has been relatively middle-class. I remember as a kid that we lived in suburbia for a good portion of my young life. Later, we lived with the Grandparents for almost two years during the 2008 recession after my family lost their business. However, my Dad eventually got a stable job, we lived more modestly than before, but we lived comfortably. We moved again after a series of other-at the time-unfortunate events, but we now happily live in Greeneville, Tennessee.

I have never been to public school. My parents resolved (despite economic hardships at times) to homeschool all their children because they were dissatisfied with the Omaha Public School system, which roughly had a 60-70ish% graduation rate at the time, not to mention other issues with the schools. Instead, my mom taught us one on one for our early education until we were able to begin figuring out problems on our own. From then on, we were handed educational material and left mostly to our devices, with the expectation of completing it and honestly recording our grades.

In this way, my education was perhaps peculiar. Beyond general supervision, much of my late-middle school and high school education was independent; I would do my work and finish whenever I completed my work. It was simple, but not always easy. However, as a consequence of this homeschool education, I never had to take any high-stake standardized tests.

My first experience with standardized testing was in a homeschool ACT prep class. I took the test sheets home and performed the test on myself; my first test result was an 18. My most prominent feeling before taking the actual ACT exam was intimidation; I was worried about how a single test could affect my educational career; I went on to score a 28. Afterward, I felt that the test could not truly be reflective of my actual ability. Which was my “real” score the 18 or the 28? How could I suddenly be 56% smarter than when I first took the ACT only weeks ago? The only difference is that I knew how to take the test. Beyond the single oddity of the ACT, the standardized test has been unknown to me, and its absence has not hurt me.