Last week The New York Times published an article called Everything You Need To Know About the New SAT. In it, several test prep companies are quoted talking about the challenges in preparing for the new test. One comment was particularly striking. The education director for a company called PrepMatters said, “If you don’t read well and happily, this test isn’t going to be your friend.”
Four years ago, Novi High School’s English Department committed to changing the culture around reading at our school. We have added dedicated time for independent reading in all of our courses, we have committed to spending more time helping students find books they enjoy, and we have built classroom reading libraries that appeal to the interests and abilities of our students. We have not finished the job, but we are well on our way to providing an environment where students can read well and happily.
When the juniors took the PSAT this year--the first look at this new test--my juniors were overwhelmingly positive about the English section. Many said it felt easy, and that’s a great sign. Novi’s English Department has been revising and rewriting our curriculum to fit the Common Core Standards over the past seven years. The new test certainly isn’t easy, but it feels “easy” to many of our students because it’s assessing the skills they’ve been learning and practicing ever since they started high school. This test aligns with the Common Core and will hopefully be as accurate of a measure of their learning as a standardized test can be.
We will have to wait and see about how the scores correlate with the students’ feelings about the test, but in the meantime, I’m hopeful that our students are well prepared for this brand new test. Parents often ask what their students can do to prepare for standardized tests, and this year I will ask you to do exactly what the test prep companies are suggesting. Help your students develop as readers.Encourage reading for pleasure at home. Help your students find books that they’re interested in reading. There’s always a temptation to go out and buy the latest test prep materials and encourage your student to do practice test upon practice test. While those things can be helpful, this new test values students who are real readers. The more you can do to help your students genuinely enjoy reading, the better off they’ll be.
Mrs. Hattie Maguire