West Hartford Public Schools Piloting Redesigned PSAT/SAT

Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The College Board is changing the PSAT/SAT beginning in the fall of 2015, and West Hartford Public School freshmen and sophomores can register by Jan. 8, 2015, to pilot the new test and get a $25 gift card.

Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

High school students in the class of 2017 and younger will be taking a completely redesigned SAT, and eligible students in the West Hartford Public Schools are invited to participate in a pilot of the new exam on Jan. 24, 2015.

The redesigned exam will be officially implemented beginning with the PSAT taken by students in the class of 2017 (current sophomores) in October 2015. The redesigned SAT will be given for the first time in March 2016.

West Hartford Public Schools also encourages – and pays for – all sophomores to take the PSAT for practice, and those students in the class of 2018 will also take the new test this coming October.

West Hartford has been invited to participate in a pilot program for the redesigned test, and current sophomores and freshman are eligible to take the pilot test, at no charge, at either Conard or Hall on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, from approximately 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. See below for registration information.

“The pilot is a validity study,” West Hartford Public Schools Director of Secondary Education Paul Vicinus said Tuesday as he explained the new test to a group of parents at Conard High School.

The pilot is available to all freshman and sophomores, but students will not receive individual scores. Vicinus expects that the College Board will use the results of the pilot test to validate question and make final changes before the October implementation. “The benefit is experiential,” he said.

However, all students who participate in the pilot test will receive a $25 gift card directly from the College Board in May. The district will also receive $15 per student from the College Board, and that money will be put into a scholarship fund, Vicinus said.

The changes to the 88-year-old test are intended to provide “greater transparency and equity,” Vicinus said. The goal is to align the test more closely to the high school curriculum that has been the focus of reform over the past several years, and also move away from “trick” questions and eliminate “gimmicks.”

“It’s intended to be a reflection of achievement in high school skills,” said Vicinus. It will also be more closely aligned with the ACT, another standardized test that was originally more popular in the south and midwest but has gained popularity in recent years.

Although an increasing number of colleges and universities have become test optional in recent years, 80 percent still require either the SAT or ACT, Vicinus said.

What Will Be Different About the SAT

The redesigned SAT will include two required sections – Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math – and an optional essay. Scoring will be on a scale of 200-800 for the required sections, with a total SAT score based on 1600. The current SAT, which was implemented in 2005, has three required sections and a scale of 2400, although many schools still consider primarily the Critical Reading and Math sections.

The redesigned math section will have a greater emphasis on problem solving and data analysis, more algebra and less geometry, Vicinus said. The reading and writing will be less about obscure words and more focused on vocabulary that students are expected to use, and also based on source texts in history and science.

Points will no longer be deducted for incorrect answers. The current test deducts .25 for each wrong answer.

The redesigned SAT’s optional essay will be scored based on reading, analysis, and writing. Final decisions on the essay scoring are still pending, however, all essays will require students to respond to the the following prompt and only the source text will change: “As you read the passage in front of you, consider how the author uses evidence such as facts or examples, reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence, and stylistic and persuasive elements to add power to the ideas expressed. Write an essay in which you explain how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience.”

The redesigned SAT also includes a partnership with Khan Academy to help all students prepare for the exam at no additional cost. That program will launch in June 2015. For more information about Khan Academy’s test preparation program, click here.

report on the SAT’s redesign was presented to the West Hartford Board of Education on Dec. 2, 2014, and that report can be found by clicking here.

More information about the redesigned SAT and sample questions can also be found on the College Board’s website.

Register for the Pilot Test

Registration for the pilot test is open to all freshman and sophomore West Hartford Public Schools students. Hall students can register by contacting  Judy Oulundsen at [email protected] or 860-929-5125 and Conard students should contact Mary Ann Hall at [email protected] or 860-929-5026. Email confirmation and additional information will be provided next week to all who have registered.

According to Director of Guidance Tor Fiske, approximately 150 students were registered for the pilot exam as of Monday, Jan. 5.

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