College Board Introduces New Test for Eighth Graders

Critics question whether the ReadiStep test has value or is a "cynical marketing ploy"

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College Board, the owner of the SAT, is introducing a new standardized test next fall for students in the eighth grade. Like the PSAT for 10th graders, the new test, known as ReadiStep, will gauge the skills of eighth graders in mathematics, critical reading, and writing. The College Board says the scores won't be used for admissions or merit aid decisions. Only students and their schools will receive the results. The goal, officials say, is to provide feedback to school districts that want to prepare more students for college before they reach high school. "What makes this assessment valuable and not just another test is its instructional relevance," Lee Jones, a vice president of College Board, said this week in announcing the new test.

The National Center for Fair & Opening Testing, which is generally opposed to standardized testing, released a statement calling the new test "a cynical marketing ploy designed to enhance test-maker revenues, not improve access to higher education." Eighth graders already take statewide assessments that determine how well they have mastered math, reading, and writing skills. Robert Schaeffer, the center's public education director, questioned the value of another test. "The new exam will only accelerate the college admissions 'arms race' and push it down onto even younger children," he said.

College Board officials emphasized that school districts asked for the assessment. They also said the test is tied to rigorous national standards, so the results would offer a more reliable picture of students' abilities than state tests. "We feel confident enough from talking to College Board member institutions that they are excited about the test," Jones said, although he would not name or identify how many school districts asked the agency to develop such a test. College Board says it expects school districts, not students, to pay for the exams, although the exam fee has not been set yet. The two-hour, multiple-choice tests will be offered to students during a two-week window in the fall or the spring. Teachers, who will proctor the exams, will receive the results in four weeks.

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