April 20, 2020 Newfound normal: at-home SATs and ACTs? Dear Foley Prep Family Member: This past week the College Board announced that it’s looking to roll out at-home testing for the SAT and will poss
April 20, 2020
Newfound normal: at-home SATs and ACTs?
Dear Foley Prep Family Member:
This past week, the College Board announced that it’s looking to roll out at-home testing for the SAT and will possibly double the number of SATs administered at schools this fall. The ACT folks announced that at-home ACT testing will be implemented late fall/early winter. The ACT will also be given 4 times this summer: 2 on the regularly scheduled days in June and July, plus two make up dates.
Did you read that right? Tests will occur almost every weekend for the rest of the year, even at home. Sounds like fun, eh?
Over the weekend, I scoured the internet, talked to academic buddies at ETS, and ruminated over the benefits and drawbacks regarding the SAT and ACT going to online home testing. Here are some things you need to know based on these articles and my 25 years of experience in private and public education.
Online testing: background & implementation
Has computer-based testing ever taken place?
Yes. In 1993, the GRE became a computer adaptive test (CAT) that was administered at designated testing centers across the United States. Similarly, the GMAT became a CAT in 1997. The Educational Testing Service (ETS), the most powerful singular organization shaping education in the US and many other countries, creates these tests.
What about computer-based testing in NJ for public school students?
Since 2015, the PARCC, now called NJSLA tests, has been administered to NJ students from grades 3-11. The major controversy around these tests was focused on the content of the test, the validity of the results when compared to teacher performance, and the classroom seat time students were losing while taking the test. There was very little “background noise” on the fact they were computer-based.
Is there an advantage to computer-based testing versus paper and pencil?
The answer to this question is similar to the old soft drink wars: Coke or Pepsi? I would say the current crop of high school students are generally well prepared to take online tests. Generation Z has used digital technology from a young age and is comfortable with social media and the Internet. That may not make them digitally literate, but current high school students know how to use a computer. Just take a look at the digital learning that is going on right now.
How and when will the tests be implemented? Will the proctor be spying on my child?
As noted above, digital versions of the SAT and ACT are being prepared for students to take at home in the fall. A remote proctoring system that “locks down everything else in the computer” will be deployed. This is similar to the lockdown browser that NJLSA computer-based testing uses, so this is nothing new. The student’s camera and microphone will be on, so online proctors can detect any movement in the room. If testers are using Zoom for distance learning, there is nothing different here – their teachers can see them remotely.
Online testing: analysis & action steps
Won’t kids cheat?
Cheating is as old as time. Plenty of kids cheat on the paper versions of the SAT and ACT. Well-resourced families who can afford test prep should also understand that their children will be judged by college admissions officers on a variety of factors that have to support each other: GPA, standardized test scores, and doing well in the most rigorous coursework available. Those are the main factors that very competitive schools look at. All the factors have to support each other, so a very high SAT or ACT score will not outweigh a lousy GPA (or even a “B” in the wrong class). Foley Prep students need to be ready to face these tests and learn to be the best versions of themselves, so the fact that students might cheat should not affect our students’ choices.
Will the at-home tests be viewed as valid? How many tests should my child take?
Because students and colleges will face so many challenges for the next few years, I expect that admissions officers will consider only at the highest SAT or ACT score on a student’s record (ie, “Score Choice” for all). Thus, Foley Prep students should prep and test early and plan to re-take these tests a few times until they feel they hit their highest mark.
What to do? What has Foley done?
Whatever the platform that will be used for testing, students have to prepare to tackle the content. Let me make it clear: the test content is not changing, but the delivery system is moving online. “Testing from Home Readiness” has never been more important for Foley Prepsters. Expect to see the same questions in a digital format. That is why our current online tutoring setup is extremely important. Students are getting practice in reading passages online and solving math problems from computer to paper and then back to computer. I am bringing our tutors up to speed by speaking with each of them about these possibilities and training them in methods of online testing.
The benefits of test prep
The SAT and ACT are objective measures of how students stack up against millions of other students, not just their classmates. Prepping for these tests is both motivational for students (it’s hard to argue with an SAT score) and a mechanism by which educators (such as Foley Prep Pros) can determine crucial gaps in students’ mathematical and English language learning. Whether tests are given online or in person, the content must be mastered for students to jump the hurdle and get into their top choice colleges. Once again, rather than causing the implementation of online testing and learning, the pandemic has merely accelerated these trends.
Thanks for all the great things many of you have told me about our online tutors. We all hope to meet everyone in our offices someday soon. Until then, I have been extremely busy implementing some exciting plans to expand our offerings this summer and make every aspect of the Foley experience better; stay tuned as we complete our plans for yet another “Best summer, ever.”
If you have any questions at all, please feel free to call or reply to this email. Thanks, as always, for your time. Be safe and be well.
Professor Ronald Foley
Do forward this email to whomever could benefit from it.
Call 732-412-1416 or reply to this email for more information
JoAnne helping a student with her SAT Subject Literature exam. JoAnne is one of three very popular English teachers on the Foley Prep permanent faculty.
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Go to FoleyPrep.com/data to find out more. Below is a screenshot of one of the interactive data plots – I invite you to go nerd out for a few minutes!
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