Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I've been following Mayor Bloomberg's effort to reform (Village Voice article here) the school system in NYC. As you can imagine he has met a great deal of resistance from all sides but has, over the last year and a half, made progress (as measured by test scores). His latest effort is to offer the PSAT to all sophomores, free of charge:

"Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who unveiled the deal yesterday, said it would encourage more students to think about going to college, although he said children would not be forced to take the exam. City education officials also said they hoped to use the test to measure student progress between the 10th and 11th grades.

'By taking the PSAT, students signal an interest in going to college,' Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference yesterday at the Education Department headquarters. 'And colleges respond by sending them recruitment information.'”

I think this is a great idea. The PSAT (the precursor to the SAT) is a basic step in applying to college. If every sophomore in NYC takes the test then they are laying the foundation for potentially applying to college. Taking the (free) test is optional, but schools, and principals, will be judged by what percentage of students are taking the (free) test:

"To encourage schools to get students to take the test, Mr. Liebman said principals would be rated in part on the overall percentage of their students who take a college readiness exam — either the PSAT, the SAT or the ACT — regardless of how students score."

I like the idea because, ultimately, high school should prepare students for college. This is a step to accomplishing that. Of course, some people disagree, saying that we already have too much testing:

"Critics of the PSAT said the exam has little value for diagnostic purposes and accused the College Board, a nonprofit group based in New York, of profiteering.

'It’s one more attempt by the College Board to sell more exams,' said Bob Sweeney, a college counselor at Mamaroneck High School in Westchester. 'I don’t see a real worthwhile educational value of it.'"

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