Internship Reflection Week of 2012-05-14 [38] (SAT Prep Post-Test, Drag Day)

On Monday the students that I had been teaching in the SAT Prep course, plus a few others, took a diagnostic test donated by the generous folks at The Princeton Review.  Many students that had taken the review course felt more in control, more prepared, more able to understand what was being asked.  We are supposed to get scores back the week of 2012-05-21.  [Note, I am still worried that confidence is not based on true competency.  But keep reading…]

A few students that had *not* taken the review course either needed some immediate accommodations to stay engaged, or were already pretty capable on the topics, and so were taking a true practice test.  Kudos to Stan, the teacher at our school that has now done two sittings of the SAT which followed the official timings and rules.  He also worked very hard a few weeks ago when we learned that the Big Picture SAT testing site (our school!) was already full and could not accommodate even our own students that were going to take the SAT on June 2.  Stan got on the phone with the College Board and arranged more seats at our facility and spaces for our students.

Wednesday was Drag Day, an annual occurrence at Big Picture.  The event this year was organized by the Closet Crashers, a group of students on campus that support LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) youth.  The high frequency of bullying on LGBTQ youth is well established, so to take a day and encourage “gender bending” helps reduce tension and build understanding.  At the end of day we had an all campus assembly where some guests were invited to perform and the students who had come in costume that day could “strut their stuff”.  The general consensus after the event was that this year’s Drag Day was a smashing success.

On Friday, Stan got to talk to The Princeton Review (TPR) folks and get our scores back, quite a few days ahead of schedule.  Results were not encouraging.  Whereas many students would have hoped to have increased their scores, by and large that was not the case, since many people’s scores went down.  TPR says that this is quite typical, namely that relative to the first score, the second score goes down, and the the third score (from a third taking) also may go down or show only moderate improvement.  The fourth (!) attempt—for most students—shows the most dramatic improvement.  Stan was sure to relay the following from the TPR folks “it is not your instructors fault, this is how the pattern goes.”

So allow me to reflect briefly on this news.  First and foremost, I am disappointed, but not surprised.  I am disappointed that I couldn’t have somehow accelerated this inevitable process.  Why?  I am not surprised that “scores go up [more] with [more]practice”  I only wish I could have urged students to practice more. 

I also think that is it not a little disingenuous for an SAT prep company to notice and report.  However, who has the money or the time to do 4 sittings on the SAT?  Many of our students in particular take the SAT on waivers since they are FNR (free and reduced lunch).  And, they only get 1 or 2 waivers (I think).

But when my emotion subsides, I realize that by not enforcing homework, I may have been able to keep people in the course, but I didn’t really push the envelope on ability.  I imagine It was awfully easy for some students to watch me solve problems, or to watch their classmates solve problems, and be lulled into a false sense of competency.

So I’m teaching to a standardized test, by using sample problems from a standardized test.  I see no real flaw with that method, but I do realize that students themselves must own their preparation; must do their own homework; must find questions that they can drill on, and get better (more accurate) and faster at both new and old problems.  I will definitely remember the TPR hints, and urge students to get their 3 practice tests in before their official sitting.

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