Scorekeeping

In my life before Collegewise, I worked for a test preparation company that, while preparing students for standardized tests, was also an outspoken critic of the exams. As the CEO used to say, “We judge a test by the behavior it inspires.” I’ve never met a student who was more intelligent, curious, kind, thoughtful, or interesting just as a result of preparing for and taking the SAT. But I’ve met plenty who were spending far too much time, energy, money and mental energy, often at the expense of their happiness and available free time. The SAT is a bad test because the behavior it inspires is not particularly inspiring.

You can also evaluate the behavior inspired by just about any kind of scorekeeping.

For example, I’ve noticed that some students do an awful lot of keeping score during the high school years. Ask them what they’ve been up to, or what their favorite class is, or what they’re most proud of, and the answer will involve a comparison to another student.

Not just what grade they earned, but how their performance stacked up against the rest of the class. Not just the pride in their accomplishment, but why the comparison to the competition makes the goal so notable. “Compared to what or whom?” is always implied.

If scorekeeping helps you do your best work, great. Some people are motivated by the framing of comparison. But for most of us, the constant measurement against others only begets more measurement, not better work or better feelings.

There’s plenty of scorekeeping and measurement imposed on high school students these days without adding more of it into your life. If the scores you’re keeping aren’t inspiring behaviors that bring out the best in you, maybe it’s time to consider a different measure?