College Board officials have confirmed that they are working on a pre-PSAT, a voluntary assessment for 8th graders designed to gauge their progress toward success on the college-entrance exam and beyond. The Los Angeles Times broke the story Friday when an official with the New York City-based board discussed it at a conference, not realizing a reporter was in the room taking notes (don’t you love when that happens?).
The board would not give Ed Week details, but said an announcement and more information should be ready in the fall.
“It’s designed to provide schools with insight about students’ academic progress and academic potential,” board spokeswoman Jennifer Topiel wrote in an e-mail this week. “The goal is to help schools create a road map for students with the ultimate aim of ensuring that all students are on a path toward college admittance and then college success.”
She said that the development of the test comes after requests from school districts. Apparently, many schools are giving the preliminary, or practice PSAT—a qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship program—to students earlier than in the past. It is generally recommended for 10th or 11th graders.
There are some great quotes in the Times article from critics about the program potentially increasing pressures on test-weary students and a more cynical take about it being a “marketing ploy”.
As well as some justification from the College Board.
“By the time they’re taking the PSAT, 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,” Wayne Camara, the board’s vice president for research and analysis, said at a conference at USC last week, according to this story by Times reporter Gale Holland. “This test will help schools identify students who have some talent and could likely succeed if they take honors or AP courses, but have not been recognized.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.