The College Board, whose tests have been a part of the culture of American high schools for more than a century, will soon expand its reach into middle school with instructional materials intended to get students on track for college.
Starting in the 2002-03 school year, the New York City-based sponsor of the SAT and the Advanced Placement program will begin pilot-testing a package of student-learning and teacher-professional-development materials for grades 6-8. The goal is to raise the level of students’ achievement in the middle grades so they are ready to take college-preparatory and AP courses in high school.
“If you’re going to get as many kids ready for college as you want to, you can’t just focus on the high school years,” said Lee Jones, the vice president for K-12 development and operations for the College Board, a membership organization of higher education institutions and school districts. “By the time they’re in 10th or 11th grade, there’s no amount of acceleration that will get them ready for college.”
The project will pick vital topics that students must master in mathematics and English/language arts before they can enter a college-preparatory track in high school. The College Board will prepare curriculum units and give teachers the professional development they need to use them.
Mr. Jones said the materials can be used “in conjunction with or as a supplement to” the curriculum and textbooks schools already use.
The project is intended to reach students of all abilities, he added, not just high-achieving children already headed for college.
The College Board is searching for middle schools to participate in the pilot effort. Services for the participating schools will be underwritten by $3 million in grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich., and the GE Fund, the giving arm of the corporate conglomerate based in Fairfield, Conn.
Currently, the College Board is field-testing a similar project for 9th and 10th graders.
At the end of the grant period, the College Board hopes to market a series of instructional materials and professional-development seminars to middle schools and high schools throughout the country, Mr. Jones said.
The project’s emphasis on raising the academic content of middle school coursework is welcome, said one middle school expert, but the College Board will need to incorporate hands-on and critical-thinking activities that spark young teenagers’ interest.
“It’s going to have to have strong academics, but also respond to how young adolescents grow and develop,” said Deborah A. Kasak, the executive director of the Association of Illinois Middle Level Schools and the president of the National Middle School Association, a membership group based in Westerville, Ohio.
A version of this article appeared in the March 20, 2002 edition of Education Week as College Board to Extend Reach To Middle School