New test preps for college early

  • College Board has come out with an assessment test called ReadiStep to help prepare kids for high school and college
  • Some thinks test is a marketing ploy by College Board
  • Some think better education necessary, not more assessment tests
  • MPS is not going to pick up the test

The College Board has come out with another assessment test that will help provide students the guidance middle school students need to start preparing for high school and college.

According to Jennifer Topiel, executive director of communications for The College Board, the test, called ReadiStep, is a paper and pencil exam with three multiple choice sections: reading, writing and mathematics. The total test time is two hours.

The idea of the test, according to Topiel, is to better prepare students for the rigors of future academics.

"ReadiStep is designed to help educators identify the skills that students have and those that they need to develop in order to be more prepared for rigorous high school courses and for college." Topiel said. "The College Board's goal is to give teachers a tool to help all students get on the right track for college."

Topiel said she thinks schools are inappropriately giving the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test to students earlier than the 10th grade because of the excellent feedback it provides, even though those tests are meant for students in the 10th and 11th grades.

"(The PSAT/NMSQT) measures skills that students should have at that level," Topiel said. "Educators asked us for an assessment that measured grade-appropriate skills for the eighth grade level."

While Topiel stands firmly by the necessity of the test, some people strongly disagree.

Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), said he believes the test is only a competitive product to the ACT's EXPLORE assessment test.

The ACT EXPLORE assessment is a two-hour test that assesses eighth and ninth grade students' English, math, reading and science skills.

"It's the competitive product to Explore by The College Board," Schaeffer said. "It's a marketing ploy designed to increase College Board revenue, not to prove education quality for college. It doesn't provide by new information."

FairTest is an organization that works to make sure administered tests are more beneficial to students than to the companies providing the tests, according to Schaeffer.

"It's a leader of no tests for college," Schaeffer said. "Colleges already have all the information they need with GPA, classes and letters of recommendation. Right now there are 780 test optional schools and 30 of the top 100 national liberal arts colleges are test optional."

These test optional schools do not require SAT or ACT scores for admission.

Schaeffer said he thinks this test is a good example of the misuses of standardized testing.

"We need better education, not more standardized tests," Schaeffer said. "The reason for this test is because The College Board is looking to reclaim their dominance in the college testing market to ACT."

By the time a child finishes eighth grade, he or she will have taken about 14 standardized tests, many of which are mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act, Schaeffer said.

The No Child Left Behind Act does not mandate ReadiStep. Schaeffer said there have only been two educators who have vocalized their support of the test.

"The College Board was able to provide two educators in support of the test," Schaeffer said. "One is on The College Board staff. The other is on the ReadiStep Testing Committee."

Nancy Bonesho, district assessment manager of Milwaukee Public Schools, spoke about Wisconsin's standards for issuing assessment tests.

Bonesho said she was not surprised that The College Board has come out with a new test.

"There is a wide market right now for assessments," Bonesho said. "Companies are trying to market assessments that will help kids move to better performance – but we're not looking right now."