Friday, August 15, 2014

College Placement Exams - SAT or ACT?

Standardized testing has always been one of the most stressful parts of the college admissions process. This one single exam generates one number that will determine where your life is going for the next four years. And for years, it seemed there was really one standardized test worth taking- the SAT exam given by the College Board. In recent years, however, the SAT has been challenged and actually overtaken by the ACT exam in terms of how many students a year take the exam. So the question becomes how does this information affect the average college applicant, and what can you do to use it to maximize your success?

This Table explains the way that the SAT and ACT are scored:

Score Range
Number Of Sections
Type Of Sections
600-2400, 800 for each section
Critical Reading, Writing, and Mathematics
1-36, 1-18 for each section
English, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences.
How did the ACT overtake the SAT? ACT offers significant advantages to a student over the SAT. First of all, there are no penalties for wrong answers, unlike the SAT that currently gives you a quarter of a point off for every wrong answer. Second, the essay for the ACT, unlike the SAT, is completely optional. Third, and most importantly, the ACT is more directly linked to the actual curriculum of education, where the SAT is more based on the critical reasoning skills learned through the curriculum.

In addition to this, multiple states mandate that schools pay for the ACT and force high school students to take it. On the one hand, this could be seen as a very effective marketing tactic by the ACT. On the other hand, it could also be seen as an attempt to get students in a college ready mindset as well as giving them the chance to compensate for low grades with a high score on a standardized test. And therein lies the question--which test should a prospective college student take?

The answer is that you should take both. Until you take the test, or at least begin to study to take the test, you will have no idea which test would better show your strengths to a college. Because of this, I would highly advise that if you have the money and the time, you prepare for and take both of them, and take them multiple times. Many colleges, for example, allow you to use your best SAT/ACT scores and omit prior test results for evaluation, even if you have taken both tests multiple times.

This is a critical issue because this score plays an important part in college acceptance. Let’s use a conservative estimate and say that the SAT only counts for ten percent of whether or not a college accepts you. That’s one number, one single test that will account for ten percent of how a college views you. And with that in mind, why not make as much effort as you can to make sure that number is the best possible number it can be?

Which test will students take?

Current 10th Graders (Class of 2016)
SAT: Take the current SAT.
PSAT: Take the current PSAT.
ACT: Take the current ACT.

Current 9th Graders (Class of 2017)
SAT: Take the current SAT until Fall of Junior year.  Starting Spring of Junior year, take the NEW SAT.
PSAT: Take the NEW PSAT in the Fall of Junior year.
ACT: Take the ACT Aspire to prepare for the ACT, which is not going through a major change.

Current 8th Graders (Class of 2018)
SAT: Take the current SAT until Fall of Sophomore year.  Take the NEW SAT in Junior and Senior year.
PSAT: Take the New PSAT in the Fall of Sophomore and Junior year.
ACT: Take the ACT Aspire to prepare for the ACT, which is not going through a major change.

Current 7th Graders (Class of 2019)
SAT: Take the NEW SAT.
PSAT: Take the New PSAT.
ACT: Take the ACT Aspire to prepare for the ACT, which is not going through a major change.

By Rob Holloman
School Choice International

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Educational Challenges When Moving with Children

School Choice International was invited to blog about educational issues and relocation for assignees. Take a look at the challenges families may experience in a domestic or international move.

Friday, June 13, 2014

For lessons about social class- Rob Holloman


      In the May 30th New York Times article “For Lessons About Social Class, a Field Trip Takes Students Home”, the paper discusses the Manhattan Country School’s unique Field Trip program. In their pre-kindergarten classes, the children of Manhattan Country School go to other students’ homes and experience their culture for a day. The field trips  both build community and introduce students from an early age to the concept of social, ethnic, and cultural diversity. As a student and an employee of School Choice International, I feel that I can relate to the article in multiple ways.

      In one way, it adds a new level of meaning to the idea of a field trip. Field trips traditionally bring in a real world context to help students understand the curriculum. For example, my history class took a trip to the Holocaust museum when we were studying World War II, in order to get a better understanding of the atrocities and horrors of Nazi Germany. The Manhattan Country School takes this a step further, however, by making it not real world examples of the curriculum, but real world examples of life itself. They illustrate to children early examples of tough issues such as social and class inequality. By introducing children to these concepts and issues early, however, the hope is that the children will realize that there are far more similarities between each other than differences. This is a radical new method for field trips; not curriculum focused field trips, but life skills focused field trips.

            The second way I can relate to the article is the amount of both student and parent involvement it encourages. For parents, the dilemma always seems to be that they want to be more involved with the school, but that they do not always have the time or ability to. With the new field trips idea, it allows the parents to be involved hosts who can show the children their own culture. For the students, it allows every one of them to have their day in the sun. They can show their friends in their class their homes, and they can also get to see their friend’s homes. And of course, there’s always the fact that the students get a day off from school. No matter what the age, kids will always love to get an additional ‘day off’, even if they’re actually perhaps learning even more than they would in a normal school day.

            There are also many ways to take the ideas from the article and use them in a school setting or as a parent or student. For schools, the first suggestion would to be implement the field trips in the style of the Manhattan Country School. However, this is not the only way schools can use this information: if a school does not want to go as far as the Manhattan School, just perhaps consider using field trips that would teach life skills rather than curriculum. For students, one could be more interested and proactive about learning another classmate’s lineage and culture. And for parents, there’s at least two ways they could use this information. One is to make sure that the children know their own cultural background, and that they are proud of it. The second is to become more involved and active in the school, to show your children that you care about and value their education.

By Rob Holloman
School Choice International Student Intern


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