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Lack of ACT preparation deprives students of test options

by Alyssa Gilman

Much of high school is spent preparing for college, which entails the process of getting there—writing and sending applications and taking the required tests. The responsibility belongs to both the student and the student’s high school, but when it comes to standardized tests, the school isn’t doing enough.

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The mandatory administering of the PSAT to sophomores and juniors at the high school began three years ago. Taken during one school day each fall, this standardized test “provides individual students with feedback on where their strengths are and where their weaknesses are,” said Principal David Heisey, Ed.D. “Students taking the PSAT can look at their results and they can increase their SAT scores from diagnosing how well they do on the PSAT.”

Before this practice was initiated, students who wanted to take the PSAT had to pay to take the test on a Saturday. While the in-school offering of the PSAT eliminates a burden for students, the action cannot fully satisfy a student’s needs.

Students should have school access to ACT preparation as these test scores are becoming an increasingly popular component for college applications. According to the website (www.actstudent.org), the number of ACT test-taking graduates in New Jersey has increased by 36.9 percent from 2009 to 2013.

The PLAN, the ACT’s equivalent test to the PSAT, is a test that measures a student’s academic progress and has content like that on the ACT, an increasingly popular test. There is reason why it should.

“I would like to be able to take the PLAN or ACT prep through the high school because the SAT and ACT are different,” said junior Lauren Frazier. “I think students should have a chance to look at the differences and see which test or sections of the test are their strengths and weaknesses.”

Students like Frazier, who took the SAT in October and are soon taking the ACT, have not had the chance to experience the ACT in school as they did the SAT.

Of course, there are outside preparation options like enrolling in classes and purchasing study materials, but these are costly approaches that could restrict equal opportunities to excel academically.

“The school should offer an elective or club that provides test prep,” said sophomore Rebecca Ames. “It could help out a lot of students who don’t have the time or money to hire a tutor outside of school.”

To forgo providing ACT prep is almost a way of swaying students in the direction of one test over the other. The school is not allowing students to weigh their options and determine which test they are better suited for.

Frazier said taking the PSAT as a sophomore was “a glimpse of what [students] were getting into” before they take the SAT. Making ACT preparation accessible to teenagers would make that foresight more useful and accurate for students who are planning on taking the ACT.

While it would be ideal for prospective ACT students to have the opportunity to take the PLAN through a school program,practical considerations stand in the way.

“The two biggest hurdles with giving the test on the weekend would be finding faculty to volunteer to administer the test and the cost to the district,” said Vice Principal Timothy Donohue. “We would also have to consider how many students are interested.”

Granted, students must do their part as well. As Heisey said, a student’s preparedness for these standardized tests is “not solely the student’s responsibility nor the school’s responsibility. It’s a partnership.”

The role is indeed a partnership, but a partnership that would be much stronger and more beneficial if both ends were equally engaged in the preparation.

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