+ College Board To Offer 8th Grade Test

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Among growing challenges to its role in the world of college admissions the College Board, which owns the SAT and PSAT, has announced a new endeavor according to Sara Rimer’s article in the NY Times.

They unveiled a new test that they claim will help prepare eighth graders for rigorous high school courses — and ultimately college.

The test will be available to schools in the fall of 2009.  It is intended only for assessment and instructional purposes; it has nothing to do with college admissions, they say.

“This is not at all a pre-pre-pre-SAT,” says Lee Jones, a College Board vice president.  “It’s a diagnostic tool to provide information about students’ strengths and weaknesses.”

The College Board made its announcement when an increasing percentage of high school students are taking not the PSAT bus the rival ACT , and amid mounting concern over what critics call the misuses of the SAT and ACT and other standardized tests in college admissions.

These critics dismiss the need for such a test.

“Who needs yet another pre-college standardized exam when there is already a pre-SAT and the SAT test itself?” asks Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest, a nonpartisan group that has called for colleges and universities to make standardized tests optional for admissions.

“The new test will only accelerate the college admissions arms race and push it down onto ever younger children.”

The new test, called ReadiStep, can be completed within two hours and is divided into three multiple-choice sections of critical reading, writing skills and mathematics.

It costs less than $10 per student say College Board Officials, and schools and districts will pay for it.  They describe the test as voluntary and “low-stakes.”  They say the results would be shared only with teachers, parents, students and schools.

The new test has been developed in response to the demand from schools and districts, which had requested a “tool that would help them determine before high school what measures should be taken to ensure that students are on the path to being college ready,” according to Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board.

However Caperton and other officials refused to identify any of the schools and districts that had requested the test.  They said that they had done market research in “well over 1000 schools and districts,” and that “well over 50 percent” of them had expressed strong interest in the new test.  But they did offer to provide the names of educators from interested schools and districts.

John D’Auria, a former principal of Wellesley Middle School in suburban Boston, and now the superintendent of schools in Canton, Mass, says that with all the testing currently in place, he was skeptical about the need for the College Board’s new offering.

“It’s all about sorting and finding out who the talented are,” he says, “rather than trying to build into young kids the lifelong journey of learning.”

sole source:Sara Rimer’s article in the NY Times on 10/23/08.   www.nytimes.com

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