Making the Grades
Standardized testing is an undemanding way of sorting students into categories a simple way to separate the cream from the crop. However, for all the tests offer in ease of administration, they are equally deficient in assessing other measures of success or worth.
So thinks a group of six high school students whose future college prospects are conditional upon their SAT scores. Now they face the pressure of retaking and improving upon their marks in the highly touted exam.
Kyle (Chris Evans) has had his sites aimed at Cornell University and an architectural degree since age seven. But when his initial results come back a few hundred points shy of the cut off, his chance for being accepted plummets. Afraid to disappoint his parents and without secondary schooling options, he keeps his score to himself and resolves to do better on the upcoming test.
His friend Matty (Bryan Greenberg) doesn't have a hope of getting into the University of Maryland. But his desire to be close to his girlfriend, a freshman at the school, makes one more try at the test seem worth the effort.
However, instead of two weeks of intensive studying, the boys draw up plans to steal the answers for the impending examination. Looking for help, they approach Francesca (Scarlett Johansson), their "poor, little rich girl" classmate whose father owns the building where the tests are housed. Then, while discussing their idea in the boys' bathroom at school, they are overheard by the high school underachiever (Leonardo Nam) who is smoking drugs in a stall. (How did they miss that smell?) Despite Roy's unlikely chances for acing the exam, they have to let him in on the scam.
Finally the group grows to include Desmond (Darius Miles), a star basketball player whose mother is happy to support his NBA dream after he earns a college degree and Anna (Erika Christensen), the class salutatorian who is hounded by her performance-minded parents to get top grades.
Each conveniently portraying a stereotypical senior high student, these characters combine their assortment of skills and knowledge to pull off the heist. But along the way they discover that a number on a score sheet isn't the only indicator of self-worth, and that spunk and initiative can never be factored into a standardized test.
Unfortunately, parents and their older teens will have to wade through reams of profanities, as well as drug and sexual references to get to the gist of this story. The students' technique for improving their scores is also well outside any legal limits and unworthy of imitation. But the story does give families the opportunity to discuss tools employed to rank people and the real measures of success in our achievement-driven society.
After all the answer sheets are turned in, The Perfect Score proves to be an insightful and cutting look at the mother of all tests for viewers willing to slog through the film's content concerns.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Perfect Score.
Standardized testing is increasingly used as a tool to screen applicants for college and university entrance. Why are these tests so heavily relied upon? What limitations do these tests have? What groups might be disadvantaged on these kinds of exams? What other devices do schools and employers use to shortlist candidates?
What measurements do people often use to assess success? How do financial standing, educational degrees and job titles rank as status markers? What do you consider to be indicators of a successful life?