Thoughts on the SAT from a student blogging during her vacation

Giving a voice to the voiceless, that is what blogging can do. It also causes introspection and analysis which is one of the highest forms of cognition and is to be encouraged.

One of my excellent students has spoken out about the SAT and her feelings about it. I think her words are right on the money. I hope you'll read her full post (and comment.)

I am responsible for the SAT prep program and work with the Math and English department to complete a comprehensive review. Our students take a “practice” SAT (which is a real one from years past) for me each spring in their 9th, 10th, and 11th grade years. We require every 10th, 11th, and 12th grader to take the SAT at least once. (I could ramble on about this, but I won't.)

Here is what she says about the preparation we are doing:

I have taken the old SAT, the new SAT, the PSAT, and practice SATs at my school. I mean I really know how to fill in those bubbles. I am thankful that my school pushes its students to take the SAT early in his or her high school career. I stress out enough about this and I am only going to be a junior next year. I cannot imagine going to take it for the first time my senior year, knowing that where I go to college is pretty much determined by what I make on this test. I could be a stellar all A student, yet bomb the SAT, and my college dreams could go down the drain. Or I could be a C and B student, and excel so greatly on the SAT that my not so wonderful transcript is overlooked. That is the injustice of the SAT. All the determination, hard work, and ambition that is put into the grades, extracurriculars, and community service can virtually go unnoticed or, at least, looked at in a different light, because of that SAT score.

Kids who don't take the SAT until their Senior year really don't have a chance. I have found that the first time a student take the SAT should be chalked up to practice because they never reach their peak performance. (I say this after working with at least 150+ kids over the last few years. With a background in market research, I've analyzed this statistically and have NEVER found an exception!)

Sadly, I remember talking to a smart A+ student during her senior year of high school (who went to a different school.) She was getting ready to take the SAT, wanted to go to a Tier I school, and dreamed of becoming a lawyer. She had never been instructed to take the SAT before her senior year. She took it once, got discouraged, and now she cuts hair. I know she's happy and that's fine. However, I have to wonder with some guidance and encouragement, if she would not have been able to perform better on the SAT and pursue her dreams.

I was very excited this year because 100% of our senior class received the savings bond for SAT achievement from a local bank. They have to all break a certain minimum score. My goal has always been to help students do the best they can on the SAT and to stay out of remedials (none of them belong in there.) None of them were in remedials and many of them received scholarships. I was so proud!

She has some insightful words about the pressure of taking the SAT:

Maybe I am just the exception, but my score has varied 80 points in critical reading, 50 points in math, and 170 points in writing. My best score in one sitting has been on one of the practice SATs, which makes me wonder about my ability to handle the pressure that I unknowingly put on myself.

Finally, she shares what works for her:

I can tell you that I have never heard of the Christmas tree method working. I still do not know how to ace the SAT, so the best advice I can give to myself and the other poor souls who have to take it is don’t stress out about it too much, prepare yourself, get a good night’s sleep, and eat a good breakfast. My personal opinion is that chewing gum helps, but maybe that’s just me. Just try to do your best.

I never share her SAT score, however, I will say that she will surely be a scholarship student to college with an SAT out of her tenth grade year that most seniors would crave.

I think that the pressure is a very real one either self-imposed or parent-imposed. A lot is riding on that test. That is unfortunate.

Kids need to take it early and at least three times to “max out” their score. That seems counter to the purpose of the test, but it is the fact.

In Conclusion
This is what excites me. She is on summer vacation and taking time to blog. She is sharing her thoughts and self-analysis. I did not proof her work. No one proofed her work. And yet, she has submitted an article good enough for a newspaper editorial. This is excellent writing. This is what blogging is about. Wow!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Karl S August 8, 2006 - 12:54 am

The 99th Percentile/Good Teacher Myth

Many of the big test prep companies boast that all of their instructors scored in the 99th percentile when they took the SAT. That marketing ploy has always bothered me and I feel like venting about it.

First, I know plenty of people who earned perfect scores on the SAT that I would not want anywhere near my kids. Second, scoring that high does not necessarily mean you are a good teacher.

Before I sign my six-year-old up for a basketball camp, for example, I am more interested in the coaching credentials of the instructors than in their player profiles. We all know that some of the best coaches/teachers were not great players/students. We also know that many of the most talented athletes and students cannot adequately explain how they do what they do — they just do it.

Some big test prep companies hire and then “certify” (whatever that means) bright college kids with absolutely no teaching experience to work for them as private tutors. They then bill these kids out at $125 per hour. Am I crazy or is this highway robbery?

When you are trying to find expert help for your child, ask around (do your homework) and try to find an expert teacher.

Vicki A. Davis August 8, 2006 - 11:09 am

The SAT has turned into an animal unto its own, Karl, that is for sure. The fact is, GPA is a far greater predictor of college success than SAT. SAT seems to be more highly aligned with IQ score, although improvements can be made.

I do a lot of SAT prep in my school and I was not one of the top echelon’s of scores. I did, however, improve my own score by over 200 points so that I could get into Georgia Tech. I did take it 7 times.

I believe that a person who goes through the process of improving their score probably knows more about how to improve a score than a kid who just sits down and makes a top score. The process of working for it helps.

The bottom line is that the SAT is a high stakes test. Much higher stakes than it should be. Colleges will issue a scholarship to a high SAT holder just for the sake of their score. This is a disservice to the students and the educational system we serve.

With the SAT testing length of over four hours of sitting in a classroom, it does not mirror real world experience at all and really represents a students ability to concentrate and “take abuse” for a lengthy amount of time.

I’m greatly dissapointed in the turn the SAT has taken over the last few years and I hope that bloggers such as you and I can make a difference as we blog about the SAT. Thank you for your post!

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