College Board Launches Diagnostic Test for Eighth Graders to Create ‘College-Going Culture’

Phillips Academy hopefuls now have yet another opportunity to prove their high-school readiness with a newly-released College Board test. Starting in the fall of 2009, eighth grade students can voluntarily take ReadiStep, a two-hour exam, which will include sections in critical reading, writing skills and mathematics. ReadiStep was proposed to help guide middle school teachers to teach in a way that will promote college readiness and to help “create a college-going culture,” according to the ReadiStep fact sheet. Results from a test would be available within four weeks of the test’s administration, which would allow teachers to adjust their curriculum as necessary, according to the College Board ReadiStep press release. ReadiStep will also help students prepare for the SAT and serve as a diagnostic for high school preparedness as well. Jane Fried, Dean of Admission, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “With an increasingly diverse national student population, there is appropriate skepticism about the extent to which a standardized test is fair to all constituencies. Whether or not this new test for eighth graders is any better at addressing this central issue remains to be seen.” Fried also wrote, “As chair of the Ten Schools Admission Organization, I forwarded The New York Times’ article about this new test to all member Deans and Directors of Admission. This test along with the growing interest in the role that standardized testing plays in our admission processes will be an agenda item for future meetings.” Students have mixed opinions on the new test, ranging from skepticism to optimism. Dennis Kosovac ’11 supported the ReadiStep exam. He said, “The new test wouldn’t be nearly as much pressure as taking the SAT… It’s just helping [students] understand where they are and what they need to work on.” Curie Kim ’09, who took the SAT in the seventh grade to qualify for CTY summer programs, disagreed with Kosovac. According to Kim, the ReadiStep exam is “institutionalizing the education system even more.” Kim said, “In high school you take more than enough [standardized tests]. [Most applicants] are only in middle school.” According to Fried, the office’s collaboration with Robert Sternberg, creator of the Kaleidoscope Project for Alternative Testing Assessments and author of Successful Intelligence, has helped to create a stronger admissions process at Phillips Academy. One of Sternberg’s suggestions involved supplementing the traditional admission process with the assessment of applicants’ practical, creative and ethical reasoning skills. The new application would help admissions further understand “students’ strengths and weaknesses as well as the skills that students need to be successful in school and beyond,” wrote Fried.