For all those juniors out there that are staring the ACT or SAT in the face…here is some advice…know who you are and what your self-worth is, before you go into that test. Know you will do the best you can and leave with your head held high. This test does not reflect who you are as a person; it does not show what you are made of or what your potential is going to be. It is simply a test, one of many you will have in your life…
I know you all have heard about the changes that are constantly being talked about with standardized tests. For the longest time these tests were the golden standard. It was what separated a great school from an elite school and unless you were one of the few who were close to a perfect score, you just didn’t share your results. When we were taking these tests, in the northeast, no one had even heard about the ACT, the SAT was the only option. Many schools along the Eastern Seaboard did not accept this generally Midwestern test and almost no high school even offered it up as an option for us. That has changed tremendously now that all schools in the nation accept the ACT and more students choose to take it over the SAT.
For those parents out there, remember we would spend countless hours on our free Saturday filling out little circles until we couldn’t even see. For some of us, we were happy to be guaranteed the 200 free points for just putting our name on the test. For others, when we were completely lost in the trig section we simply started making patterns on the answer sheet. I have even admitted to my own children that I would base my answer on whether or not I had used a B or C in a while. Yet, these tests were supposed to be able to tell the colleges and the universities what we were all about, how smart we were, and what kind of student we would be while at their institution. It never occurred to them that someone could score very high because they have a high IQ and a photographic memory, however, never passed a paper in on time or did homework that they felt was beneath them. Is that the kind of student they want filling seats in their freshmen class? How about the students who could afford all the money for test prep and tutors and learned strategies to "outsmart" the College Board, does that make them better than the rest of us?
Looking back, I took the SAT’s because I had to. I didn’t do well, and when my parents made me take them again, I think I did worse! I remember the feeling of failure because of my scores. I felt stupid and unworthy, and unwanted by the very institutions I was striving towards. Then, I became angry. I knew I was smart and had a lot to offer, I was just not a great test taker. I had great skills and innate strengths that would make me successful in school and in life, but these skills and strengths were not tested on the SAT’s. How did they test work ethic, or organization skills? Could it show my fast processing speed or the way my brain could quickly identify problems using logic and then communicate those findings? How did they evaluate your character and your integrity? Was there an answer sheet that would tell them my struggles and triumphs and how I had dealt with both? The answer is No and I thank God I was a strong enough high school student to know I was worthy. My parents had instilled in me a sense of pride for who I was and to celebrate it instead of feel shameful of it. However, there are and were a lot of seventeen year olds that let those tests results dictate their worth.
Now as my own children and my friends’ children gear up to take another round of standardized tests, I applaud the changes that are happening in our country. I think the schools that held onto that golden standard for so long, are realizing those students with those great test scores, were not any smarter or more prepared for the rigor of college. Some students who score high on test scores may be weaker in areas such as organizational skills and time management, compared to those students with mediocre test scores. Colleges and universities are seeing that there is more to a student than a test score and if they look deep enough and take the time, those students with lower scores, often can bring just as much to the institutions than those with higher scores. Often those mediocre test takers are harder workers, don’t take good grades for granted and have better skills in organization and time management. Sometimes these students are more empathetic to others and have an amazing work ethic. I am not taking away from those amazingly bright students who score a perfect 36 on the ACT or a 2400 on the SAT, or anyone even close to those numbers, but I am saying, this is just one aspect of who they are, and what they have to offer.
In the news today was the announcement that University of Delaware is going to do a study for the next four years. They are not requiring standardized tests starting next year.
The College Board tried to persuade them to change their minds when they made the announcement, why, because they know for every college and university that changes their testing policies, the College Board loses money. I say, good for UDel, be a leader with the state universities who lag behind in the idea about testing compared to their counterparts, the smaller liberal arts schools. I say, open your eyes to the changes and celebrate that we are finally seeing that our children are more than just a score on a test. They are human beings with strengths and weaknesses, with triumphs and tragedy. These young lives have lived through terrorism, mass shootings, and the social media explosion, through the pressure of drug addiction and working parents. They have a story, an amazing, celebratory story, which should not begin or end with a test score.
For those of you who are not aware, there will be a new version of the SAT coming out in March 2016. This redesigned SAT has many in the education world concerned for those students in the Class of 2017.
We are advising any of our students who are in that class to avoid taking the test for at least the first three times it is implemented. We know this is a hard thing to digest as you gear up for your junior year, but there are good reasons for this suggestion.
In order to get the best scores you can get on standardized testing, you must be prepared.
This can mean studying for either the SAT or ACT for months prior to the implementation of the test. This should also, with certainty, include mock timed testing of said tests as well. These mock, timed tests are key in letting students know where they are weak and where they may be able to speed along. After each test, students learn by correcting mistakes and looking for patterns that could be helpful with the final test. By analyzing the results, students see where they need to focus their studying.
Due to the implementation of the new SAT in 2016, there are no published study materials for our students, not even from College Board itself. Not only are there no study materials, there are also no mock test samples from previous years as the test is brand new. Without study materials and sample tests, students will be going into the first few tests blind.
The SAT and College Board are wanting you to believe that they are making the changes to this test for “students' success”, but what they don’t tell you is that their market share has been dropping as their competitor, the ACT, has been gaining popularity. Many in the education world are led to believe that the changes have less to do with student success and more with marketing strategies.
The question is, do you want your student to be the guinea pig while the College Board figures a way to gain back its control of the testing world?
Not only will the students not have any study materials, there is also another concern with this new test. With any new roll out, there are bound to be glitches the first few times this test is taken. NO student should have to be a part of that…again. After all, it was just last spring 2015 when thousands of students were affected by a mistake in the test booklets that meant that two parts of the SAT test were not counted. Even though hundreds of students reported scores lower than the first time they took it, the College Board stuck to their belief that by taking out the two sections, scores would not be affected. I think there are many high school students, applying to college right now, who would disagree with that.
There are options for those students who don’t want to be a part of this initial roll-out.
If you feel ready and have studied, there are options to take the SAT this fall and into the winter. There is testing still available in October, November, December of 2015 and January 2016 for the old version of the SAT. Another option is, if possible, wait until two or three tests in the spring are completed and see what the outcome is. A third possibility is to take the ACT. This test has grown in popularity and is now recognized at all colleges and universities in the nation, equally as recognized as the SAT. The one major difference between the ACT is that it’a direct measurement of scholastic achievement and included four sections (reading, language, math, and science) and a writing option as well. Whereas, the SAT is more geared towards aptitude and innate intelligence and the new version will have a reading, language and math component with an option for a writing essay (no longer required).
Whatever you decide, know that there are options out there for your junior. Be informed and educated on this subject so that your child is not part of another SAT debacle.