Sat 9 Aug 2008
Just today, the test prep world and parents are abuzz. “What? another test?”Â
One of my colleagues in the test prep tutoring world said to me, “dang, more tests suck!”
The LA Times reported one of our colleagues at Princeton Review saying that “the eighth grade is too late to begin pulling together a college prep portfolio….[this is] not the key year for college assessment. That’s sixth grade.”
I started my test prep career with Princeton Review. To read them say that it is 6th grade (that determines one’s merits being college bound) is just a little startling.
While there might be some merit in educational developmental theory that students at this age can indicate, or predict, some academic success, some of the time, this is not the only determination of intelligence or school performance. There are simply too many other issues at hand.
No one debates the increased importance of the SAT and ACT, in the sheer numbers of students applying to schools, and the emphasis that schools are placing on them. Still for the College Board to put out another test? We agree with PR on this one:this does seem like a great marketing plan to place importance of the College Board over the ACT folks. (We wonder if Paris Hilton’s PR firm is the same as the College Boards…but we digress…)
But it doesn’t make sense to those of us who really understand the human mind.
The human brain is plastic, easily changed and molded. A student uninterested in school and testing might not put forth the effort that another student, less smart might in performance.
A student not interested in the test, or completely pressured about taking it, will, as the freaked-out older GMAT and Medical Boards student, be point-penalized because of their anxiety.
As always, these tests will be, predictably, highly coachable. When you get the right training, you’ll get a great score.Â
All the recent brain research points to the brain having plasticity at every stage. There is no, “use it or lose it”, rather a “use it, or train to use it better next time.” Then you will succeed.
Neurolinguistic Programming certainly indicates rapid shifts in behavior modification, as does hypnosis and other therapies. The neurological, such as that discussed in the book, The Brain that Changes Itself, and many others, points to our abilities shifting when we have the intention to become better physically as well as intellectually. We all know someone, or have seen someone on TV or in a magazine, who made a major shift: They have lost a lot of weight and then we see them training to compete in triathalons. Likewise, the brain can become conditioned to enhance the ‘natural’ or ‘nurtured’ smartness, and to be, simply, smarter. “We’ve had student start off with 400s on the GMATs to get in the 700s, or SAT students starting off in the 1500s, getting close to 2000. Did they get ‘smarter?” No. They just got great coaching.
The article states that the College Board said the exam would be voluntary starting in 2010, and that it was promted by the growing number of younger students listing for the PSAT.
While the PSAT is optional, and voluntary, last year, 3.4 million students took it. By creating another test, and sandwhich-ing the PSAT between the SAT and this new test, we wonder if it will heat up the pressure for people to take the PSAT, and perhaps ceasing it’s voluntary status.
While some argue that we need tests in order to help students plan on taking “gatekeeper classes” needed for college and to help schools identify talented students likely succeed in honors or AP courses, previously unrecognized.
But with added pressure at a younger age, these tests may do more harm than good.Â
Another reason we’re glad to be available to coach students, if it really comes down to this… and if we teach our life skills earlier, to remain calm in the face of such (ridiculous) testing…well, then we’ll give our students skills earlier.
For fun, we thought we’d invite our readers to come up with some more “pre” pre things that might put this in better light.
A pre-tricycle: would that be 4 wheeled vehicle?
A pre-med education: would that mean only science classes in high school?
Pre-pre-school: an infant training academy?
We might as well have a little fun with this one…Â
(original LA Times article: <http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-me-test8-2008aug08,0,7851692.story>Â