October 31, 2008

College Board to Test 8th Graders

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In this college-oriented culture, preparing for standardized tests begins at a young age, as many students desire perfect SAT scores to impress the top universities. Continuing with this trend, the College Board has unveiled a new test aimed at eighth grade students called “ReadiStep.”
ReadiStep, which will begin to be administered in the fall of 2009, is the result of parents’ and educators’ commitments to preparing students for the college admission process.
The test can be administered either in the fall or spring, any time in a two-week window set by the College Board, and either over the course of multiple class periods or in one chunk of time. The test will be paid for by the middle schools, not the students, which is not the case with the SAT.
Lee Jones, senior vice president of college readiness products at the College Board, stated in a press release that the test can be helpful for teachers and students.
“ReadiStep is a launching pad for students, their families and their schools as they work together toward a common goal of college success,” Jones stated.ReadiStep is said to be helpful to teachers in ensuring that their students are being properly prepared for college, but ReadiStep will not be used in the admissions process.
“The College Board has not issued any specific information to college admission offices. I have only read the information that has been in the media. I believe that the College Board plans to provide more information at their annual meeting next month in Texas,” said Doris Davis, associate provost for admissions and enrollment.
The two-hour long test is described as “low-stakes,” by the College Board. It consists of three sections of multiple choice in critical reading, writing skills and mathematics.
Prof. Christine Schelhas-Miller, assistant director of undergraduate studies in Human Ecology and an expert in adolescence and emerging adulthood, believes that these multiple-choice tests are not the best indicators for success. She co-authored the book Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money: The Essential Parenting Guide to the College Years.
Many higher education experts believe that the SAT is somewhat ineffective in judging college readiness. This can be seen in the increase of the number of schools making both the SAT and ACT optional.
“What I think is, that how you do on multiple choice tests does not determine how well you do in life. There is lots of evidence that shows that,” Schelhas-Miller said. “But when you start giving kids the message in the eighth grade, you start sending them the message that how you do on these multiple-choice tests is going to be a big deal in your life. It seem a shame to me because there are plenty of kids who will be successful in life, but may not be good multiple-choice test takers.”
“Designed to align with the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT exams to help create a complementary suite of skills-assessing tests, ReadiStep assesses the same skills as the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT at a grade-appropriate level,” the press released stated.
By aligning the test with the same characteristics of the more heavy-stakes tests, the test can put additional stress on parents and children, during an already stressful time.
“Early adolescence and puberty are major life changes, so adding more stress on top of that is particularly problematic,” Schelhas-Miller said.
Schelhas-Miller described her experience at a seminar about prepping for college. One Manhattan speaker was advertising her company, which charged $33,000 to work with kids early in high school to get them into the best colleges.
“By the time parents came to my session, they were so upset. How was their kid ever going to get into college? They are all trying to get into the same 15 colleges. Rather than looking for prestige, looking for a good fit for your child makes a lot more sense,” Schelhas-Miller said.
“So I think these tests are just feeding into that you have to get your kid into these particular schools. The sad thing about it is that it’s not taking into account what may be the best fit for the student,” Schelhas-Miller said.
College Board President Gaston Caperton described the call for the test.
“We’re hearing from states, districts and schools that are committed to creating a college-ready culture. They want students to be capable of achieving not just at basic standards, but at college-readiness standards,” Caperton stated in a press release.
“ReadiStep was developed in partnership with middle school teachers and other education experts so that it would yield results that were accurate, targeted and usable,” Caperton continued.
Schelhas-Miller saw positive aspects of the test in some of this preparation.
“It could be positive, because one thing I feel is that public schools are not teaching kids grammar and punctuation very well, and if schools realized that their kids weren’t doing well in those sections, and not just teaching to the test, but knowing those skills are useful, that could be a positive thing,” Schelhas-Miller said.
Schelhas-Miller also believed that there was too much emphasis on testing in elementary and middle school educations, in part due to the No Child Left Behind Act. The time spent testing, she said, was just time away from the students being actually taught.