Georgia students taking PSAT today glimpse SAT redesign

I’ve paid attention to the 2015 PSAT —  given this morning across Georgia — for two reasons. The first is professional: The College Board has revamped the 2016 SAT in significant ways, and today’s PSAT reflects that redesign. The new SAT will roll out in March.

MCC-ACC TEST.JPGThe second was personal; I had two PSAT takers in the mix as my twins are 11th graders. In Georgia, 10th graders also took the test today as a practice. I met a private school parent last night who told me her Buckhead high school was also giving the PSAT to freshmen as a practice.

In the statement below, FairTest, a group critical of the overuse of standardized testing and specifically of the SAT, criticizes the new PSAT, including the multiple scores students will receive.

My son took a practice PSAT two weeks ago on the practice site created for the College Board by Khan Academy. And he showed me the revised scoring system that FairTest outlines.

So, I was aware the overall score on PSAT would be on a scale of 320 to 1520 rather than the 400 to 1600 of the redesigned SAT. You can read the College Board’s explanation here

College Board says it’s also providing scores for various sections within the test so students can see where they faltered.

Here’s what FairTest says about the new PSAT:

The more than one million high school students who sat for today’s first administration of the revised Preliminary SAT (PSAT) will each receive no fewer than 15 separate scores from that exam. Test results will be reported on a variety of scales, all of which differ from the historic 200-800 range on the SAT.

According to Bob Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), “This false precision masks the fact the PSAT, old or new, is a weak predictor of college success, inferior to classroom grades. Score reporting ‘numerology’ also deflects criticism from the ongoing misuse of PSAT results as the sole qualifying factor for the National Merit Scholarship competition.”

A FairTest analysis of technical documents published by the College Board, the PSAT’s owner, shows each test taker will receive:

1 “Total Score” (320 – 1520 scale)
2 “Section Scores” (each on a 160 – 760 scale)
“Evidence-Based Reading and Writing” “Math”
3 “Test Scores” (each on a 8 – 38 scale)
“Reading” “Writing & Language” “Math”
2 “Cross-Test” scores (each on a 8 – 38 scale)
“Analysis in Science” “Analysis in History/Social Studies”
7 “Subscores” (each on a 1 -15 scale)
“Words in Context” “Command of Evidence”
“Expression of Ideas” “Standard English Conventions”
“Heart of Algebra” “Problem Solving & Data Analysis”
“Passport to Advanced Mathematics”

“To generate so many separate score categories, some with ham-handed promotional labels, such as Passport to Advanced Mathematics, the revised PSAT is 27 percent longer than last year,” says Schaeffer.

“There is no evidence, however,” he says, “the test is a more accurate or fairer predictor of undergraduate success. Independent studies demonstrate that an applicant’s high school record is a stronger gauge of college readiness than any standardized test. Yet, scores from the new PSAT will still be used as the sole qualifying factor for millions of dollars in National Merit scholarships.”

Civil rights and feminist groups have joined FairTest in criticizing the National Merit selection process for relying on a biased test to eliminate 99 percent of scholarship competitors, no matter how strong their academic records.

Research indicates that the lion’s share of National Merit aid goes to males and that few African-Americans or Latinos win awards.

More than 850 U.S. colleges and universities now do not require all or many applicants to submit results from the SAT or rival ACT. Four dozen additional schools dropped admissions score mandates in the past two years.

Here are some tweets from students today about the test. Apparently, there was a problem involving a wolf and one with cookies. (My twins kept talking about Frederick Douglass and dinosaurs.) Search PSAT on Twitter for more comments.

 

Reader Comments 0

22 comments
Raja44
Raja44

My daughter in her junior year took it yesterday and reported that she, as well as most of her friends, thought that it was harder than the last couple years (she and most of her friends took it their freshman and sophomore years as well).  She also reported that it was a good bit longer than before, and her hs (Grady) seemed to sort of goof on that by not starting the test until about 10:00, and then it lasted until about 2:00, with no lunch break.

CSpinks
CSpinks

The PSAT and SAT might be employed as pre- and post-tests, respectively, to measure growth in Reading and Math skills over the course of the high school matriculation.

CSpinks
CSpinks

Why doesn't Mr. Schaeffer establish a National Center for the Distribution of College Scholarships to Students Who Do Not Perform Well on Standardized Tests? I have the names of several standardized-testing critics who may (or may not) be willing to put their money where their mouths are. He can contact me at Georgians for Educational Excellence on FB if he's interested in these critics' identities.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

@MaureenDowney let me also add that many freshmen haven't even learned enough math content to be comfortable taking the exam!   Many students may not have taken Geometry or Algebra II yet!!

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

I think there are pros and cons to the new PSAT.   The reading passages are much longer but many of the obscure vocabulary words are removed.  You can also guess and not be penalized.  However, I was not aware of the large number of scores you'll get.   I also don't like the fact that the new SAT is making the writing section "optional."  Like any change, it's going to take a little time to get used to.   As long as the reports help a student understand their strengths and weaknesses, then it can be useful as an indicator only.   The fact we place too much emphasis on these exams is another issue, and I do believe that the wave of schools not requiring the test will continue, and the last group to resist that effort will be the elite schools.


@MaureenDowney I was a bit surprised a Buckhead school gave freshmen the PSAT "as practice."  There is absolutely NO REASON for a freshman to worry about those tests yet.  Let them enjoy their first year of high school and get comfortable with it - they have plenty of time to think about the PSAT and college.  Not as freshman.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@living-in-outdated-ed @MaureenDowney I just looked at a half dozen prep sites and the advice seems to be there is no harm in taking the PSAT as a freshman simply for the practice and pacing. I was reading College Confidential -- great site -- and a lot of private school students talked about taking the PSAT in 9th grade. 


Here is a link with a private school letter to its freshmen parents about the PSAT, which apparently all the kids take..


https://www.cghsnc.org/uploaded/Student_Services/August_Mailings_2011/PSAT_information/PSAT_Puzzle.pdf


The letter says:

Practice is one of the key factors in successfully navigating the SAT. That is why taking the PSAT in the first three years of high school is valuable experience. 

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

@MaureenDowney @living-in-outdated-ed I don't know if kids and parents look at it as just practice.  There's plenty of time for practice.  I think many parents push their kids and Freshman year is just too early to start worrying about practicing and testing and drilling.   At a recent college fair I attended, several private schools allowed freshman and even sophomores to attend.    Way too early to be worrying about that stuff.  Enjoy high school a bit!   It's not the be all/end all of college admissions.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

@ATLPeach @living-in-outdated-ed @MaureenDowney I'll go even one step further, although a bit off topic.   When my kids were in 7th grade the the Duke TIP invitation came in the mail, I immediately threw it in the trash.  No 7th grader should be forced to take an SAT exam!   My parents made me do the John Hopkins Talent Search in 7th grade, and to this day, I still recall taking the SAT and not knowing hardly anything on the test.  Why put a kid though that?   Every parent can do what they think is right when it comes to parenting, but as you can tell, I'm not an advocate of those types of programs.

booful98
booful98

@living-in-outdated-ed @MaureenDowney My son at Walton High School took it today too.I think it is a good way of getting some practice and getting used to what it means to take such a test.

Almost all the freshmen at Walton took it.

booful98
booful98

@living-in-outdated-ed @MaureenDowney It isn't too early. Everything they do from the moment they step into the high school building counts now. As I say, they are now playing for keeps. Everything matters. Colleges will look at your grades for the whole high school career and at all the activities.

redweather
redweather

Another thing about the folks at FairTest, many of their reports about how bad and biased the SAT and ACT are seven years old. Not exactly up-to-date.

redweather
redweather

FROM THE FAIRTEST WEBSITE:


"Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation suspending California’s requirement that students pass a test to graduate from high school. The new policy is retroactive for a decade. As a result, more than 30,000 young people who were denied diplomas now can receive them."


So this is a trend, I guess. 

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Wascatlady My daughter thought the math was tough. My son isn't home yet, so no word from him. I read lots of teen comments on Twitter. Seems kids thought it was hard. 

My son just came home. He's a year ahead in math, but still found the math harder than he expected. He said you had to know quadratics. 

Hillary's Emails
Hillary's Emails

Fair Test ought to look into the companies manufacturing sports scoreboards, too. 

I've often remarked that, in basketball games, a grossly disproportunate number of game points are recorded for black players—who represent a mere 12-13% of the general population.