Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The SAT & Test Anxiety

Have we gone overboard with testing? Do test-makers, those who tutor, those who score and those who judge make too much money off of these tests? Do the tests tell us what we really need to know about a student? Has testing simply become a crutch for schools and a very big, money-maker for business? Watch this video and then weigh in.


Paula Caldarella said...

IT must be a money maker for these companies. I get weekly calls from SAT prep companies trying to sell me on their programs and my oldest child will not take it for another 2 years. I try to explain this, and then they go into well, we can help with the PSAT.

Cerebration said...

Yes, it's big, big business. Same with these corporate charter schools. Think about it - K-12 education is the largest untapped corporate investment opportunity available today!

But you don't need expensive classes. Just sign you and your child up for the SAT question of the day and order the study guides from the college board. Work on a question or two every day. All you need to really learn is how they formulate questions and what they are looking for in a choice of answers. I've been doing these myself for a year and I've actually improved - even in math!


The college board will actually track your personal progress so that in the event that you do need help, you will know exactly what to ask for.

Cerebration said...

In addition, Applerouth Tutoring offers classes ($$$), but they also sell very helpful flash cards that aren't much ($20)...


click on their flash card tab on the far right.

Anonymous said...

"I get weekly calls from SAT prep companies"

I hope the school system or system employees aren't giving out info to these companies.

Anonymous said...

No the school system does not release information to testing companies. Many buy lists of contacts from data mining companies.

Just as an FYI - the State of Georgia has paid for each high school student to complete the official online SAT Prep Course offered by the Collegeboard. See your school's Asst. Principal or School Counselor for login information specific to you.

Ella Smith said...

However, many school systems like Fulton and Dekalb pay for their students to take the PSAT. Fulton Freshman, Soph. and Juniors will all have the PSAT paid for and take it tommorrow throughout Fulton County. Improving SAT scores is a big indicator and big business for the SAT companies. We also offer classes after school with companies to improve the SAT at North Springs.

Realistically, the use of grades is a better indicator. However, the College Board wants that money and will lobby to keep the SAT as a main factor.

Paula Caldarella said...

Wow, I just looked at the price of the company my niece utilized!! $500????? No wonder these SAT prep companies have come out of the woodwork, what a moneymaker.

Kim Gokce said...

I am of 2 minds on the SAT and similar "achievement" tests ...

First, there is no doubt in my mind that those with money to spend on extra prep materials, courses, and tutors will out perform their peers. This came up in a discussion I had with someone who has first-hand experience with young people at Cross Keys and students at Walton.

They said instruction at Cross Keys was on par or above that of Walton. When I asked why the SAT marks didn't reflect that, I expected to hear about language and cultural barriers, etc. but instead was told it was because so many of the Walton kids are in private tutoring and test prep.

So, I think the "business" of test prep is a valid one. What parent wouldn't buy the highest possible SAT score they could for their kids? I have no problem with parents with resources doing everything they can to help their kids in terms of preparation.

However, the entrance boards cannot weigh these scores too heavily. There is too much incentive in hyping SAT in order to increase profits for the prep companies.

While I find the salaries referenced in this piece personally disturbing, I do not think these folks are different than many of the major non-profits out there. Doesn't make it right ... only typical.

Dekalbparent said...

Having seen two kids through SAT/ACT, my opinion is that if the kid is motivated, they can prepare themselves pretty well on their own with the use of published test help books, like Peterson's, Princeton, or Kaplan. It's better yet if they form "study groups" with other motivated kids.

The problem I see with the test-prep classes is that the kid will either tune out (if they were forced to attend) or use the "tricks" and end up with a high score that may not accurately reflect them.

I would rather my kid got into a college that is suited for him/her than my kid get into a prestigious college that is actually a little bit out of their range.

I ended up in a place where the vast majority of the kids were better prepared than I was, and my first couple of years were very stressful. I graduated, I don't thin I ever got as much out of my classes as others did, and I spent a lot of time depressed because I felt stupid.

That said, a lot of the college admissions folks are telling my kid that they don't actually count the scores very heavily - they look at other things more, like the essay, high school classes and a little of extracurriculars (only looking for unusual stuff though - so band, Spanish Club and student council are not as much help as the kids think)

Cerebration said...

I think teachers can capture some of the test prep notions that are available. The College Board website has the SAT question of the day, for instance. I have posted some of them here on the blog before. Teachers could easily do one or two each day with their students - it's surprising how much better you get at answering them with practice. A little guidance and discussion would take their understanding of test-taking over the top. You can actually get pretty good at it over time. Why - my score has actually improved - even with the handicap of my tired, old brain!

Cerebration said...

For fun! Today's SAT question -

Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

The visually captivating nature of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs suggests that the architect is a true ------- , infusing his designs with beauty as well as functionality.

A. instigator
B. nonconformist
C. intellectual
D. minimalist
E. aesthete

Cerebration said...

See why non-English speakers struggle with these questions? Does a question like this really tell us anything about someone's aptitude? Or are we simply grading how full their current personal "hard drive" is...

(The answer is "E", by the way.)