The College Board, the multi-gazillionaires who already rake in the big bucks on the SAT, PSAT and assorted other high stakes exams, is set to launch an eighth grade college assessment exam in 2010. The reasoning, says Wayne Camara, a College Board exec, is that college-bound kids need to take rigorous high school courses from the get-go, and how else will they know? “By the time they’re taking the PSAT,” he told the LA Times, “it’s much too late to determine whether they should be taking algebra in the eighth grade, biology, and other important gatekeeper classes needed for college.”
Yeah, right, say critics. The College Board is pushing “admissions frenzy” into junior high because their rivals launched an 8th grade exam first. Nearly a million middle schoolers took ACT’s Explore exam in 2005-06. And now the SAT makers are “locked in a death match” with ACT, says Paul Kanarek, who heads up SoCal’s Princeton Review test prep service.
We’d like to weigh in with a couple of other thoughts. First, there are already plenty of crazed families who try to get a leg up on the competition by subjecting their children to the PSAT in middle school. This is merely a re-branding, a golden opportunity to guilt parents into paying not just for the PSAT and SAT — and the specialized prep courses that accompany each — but a whole new set of pre-PSATs and test prep services. And you know what comes next, right? The PPPPPPPPSAT, the essential college assessment exam for kindergartners.
Look, any family that’s considering taking a college assessment exam in EIGHTH GRADE is already considering biology, chemistry and the other prep essentials in high school. And families who aren’t thinking in those terms? How exactly will this help? Well, Los Angeles schools chief Ramon Cortines wants to set aside $125,000 to administer the PSAT to eighth graders next year — even though his kids already take the multi-day STAR exam, California’s state standardized test. Um, Ramon honey, what exactly do you think the 2-hour PSAT is going to tell you that the STAR does not? Hello? Take that 125 grand and spend it on a college fair for middle schoolers and their parents, hire a couple of freelance college admissions counselors to deliver you-can-go-to-college spiels in every math class, hold a parent night to explain what STAR exam results actually mean.
OK, done ranting. Your turn. Click “comments” and share your thoughts.