Big AP news. Test optional isn't test blind. The Great Disruption.
We’ve had our biggest summer ever at Foley Prep and anticipate a school year that sells out by early September. So we are finalizing plans for our in-house academic offerings, including a robust schedule of daytime subject-specific recitations and test prep. Extra items include accommodating private pods, vetting and hiring more teachers, expanding our existing spaces, and boosting our WiFi for kids who need to attend classes remotely while under our watch. In addition to our usual core academic subjects, we have dance, tennis, and soccer instructors, knitting instructors, art teachers, foreign languages, C++, Python, Java, and more. So the creative juices are flowing and I’ve never felt more alive (well, not since skiing some fresh powder back in February; it’s a different planet since then).
Big AP News: another round of make-up tests
A few minutes before midnight last night, the College Board announced another round of make up AP exams happening at the end of August. According to the CB’s announcement, students that had technical difficulties leading to incomplete exams are eligible and were notified by July 27th. As you can see from the chart below, make up exam week begins August 24th.
If your child is taking a make-up AP exam and you want tutoring, please reply to this email to start setting up time as soon as possible.
Test-optional is not “test blind.”
Even before the covid crisis, colleges that wanted to boost their applications and get a short-term popularity and revenue hit were going SAT/ACT optional. The pandemic has now pushed just about all colleges test optional for the class of 2021 and, in many cases, the class of 2022. For a complete list, check out https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional.
For the past few weeks, whenever I’ve had a chance, I’ve asked our prepsters “Don’t you know that all colleges are now test optional? Why are you bothering to prep for the SAT/ACT?”
Universally, the students’ response is that the tests are still important. Kids at Foley – a biased sample if ever there were one. My rejoiner is “What about your friends, are they taking these tests seriously?” And most often I get the same response I’ve heard for years: other kids aren’t taking the tests seriously. Understandably, this year’s crop of students has no basis of comparison for previous years’ students’ seriousness about prepping for tests. Plus, kids looking for an edge are often secretive about sharing how they are getting the edge.
But it does seem like some non-Foley parents have gone overboard and are actually seeing the SAT and ACT as unimportant. However, if you think about it or you ask anyone in the know, you’ll conclude that the reverse is actually true: these tests will be more important to the classes of 2021 and 2022…
Why AP exams and the SAT and ACT matter more now
Short answer: grading is uneven and unreliable among and within schools, so it’s hard to determine how much a student knows and is capable of from grades alone. This is why teacher and counselor recommendations weigh very heavily in admission, as they provide the color on an applicant that may not pop when it comes to grades. The SAT, ACT, and (to a lesser extent admissions-decision-wise) the AP exams, give adcoms an objective measure to admit or reject candidates vying for spots at their colleges. The light grading during the covid crisis has exacerbated the problem of uneven grades and grade inflation, making these tests more important than ever to distinguish students vying for top spots, scholarships, etc.
The Great Disruption
Yesterday I talked to one of my relatives who is a New Jersey K-8 teacher nearing retirement. Like so many teachers I know, she’s terrified of going into the classroom this fall. She said, “Don’t the parents realize that everyone is behind? We cannot have school, so parents need to be okay with everyone being behind. There’s no way around it.” Hearing this perspective is a reminder that this disruption in education will ripple out for years – and will likely get worse.
Parents of students K-16 realize that their kids’ learning progressions will be out of sync after the spring shutdown, and permanently so after this coming year. The kids that stay on pace (through perseverance or tutoring) will be mismatched with the kids who fell behind. It will be hard to organize classes; teachers will remain flummoxed. The problem is huge, and while I’d rather things be very different, I’m happy to say that the culmination of our team’s experience at Foley Prep allows us to be one remedy that will be needed for years to come.
This past week I hired 4 new full timers, and I continue to interview (so please pass the word along). Two are former students, and one is a good acquaintance – it’s so great when I have a long history with someone, and know their abilities and personality. The fourth has a teaching track record that speaks for itself and a great personality. After a passing month of training and their background checks, we’ll work them into the schedule. We have heathcare, paid time off, and I’m working on 401(k). We also have a lot of fun.
Looks like a beautiful morning. Time to hop on my Peloton. My handle is FoleyPrep4ever – feel free to friend and highfive me. I’ve been a road cyclist for ten years and don’t judge.
Ron Foley, M.S.
Doctoral Candidate, Rutgers University
Tenured Professor of Mathematics, MCC
Member of HECA, NJACAC, NACAC, NCTM, MAA, AMATCYNJ, NAS