For the first time in three years, Seaholm freshmen, sophomores and juniors didn’t have a morning dedicated to standardized testing in their fall schedule.
Birmingham Public Schools made the decision to eliminate fall testing in the wake of the various changes to standardized testing in the past year.
As of this year, guidance counselor Rebecca Powrozek said, Michigan does not require freshmen to take the Social Studies MEAP in the fall. In addition, the ACT has changed their testing for sophomores, so the school district is not currently administering what used to be the ACT Plan. Because of these changes, the district decided that pulling juniors out of class to take the PSAT, the SAT practice for juniors, just didn’t make sense this year.
“We moved it back to the way it was before, which was optional on a Saturday,” Powrozek said. “That way juniors could decide for themselves if it made sense for them and their individual needs to take it.”
And students did just that. Powrozek said that nearly 100 juniors signed up, for free, to take the PSAT on Saturday, October 18, and “approximately 85” showed up.
“I took it because my parents made me,” junior Spencer Calkins said. “I did it for the academic scholarship.”
Junior Elaine Thut also took the test in hopes of earning scholarship money.
“I heard you can get scholarship opportunities for taking it,” she said. “It’s a great experience to practice.”
The PSAT is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Powrozek said that making the test voluntary could “possibly” affect the number of Merit Scholars from Seaholm this year. However, she didn’t think there would be a dramatic difference.
“Obviously if you give it to every single junior the chances of having more qualifying students are increased,” she said. “But in the past three years (when the test was mandatory) we didn’t see a huge increase in the number of National Merit Finalists.”
Powrozek said she agrees with the district decision to make the test voluntary.
“It depends on the individual needs of the student. If a student knows they’re going to take the SAT, it’s an excellent test to take,” she said. “If you want a shot at the National Merit Scholarship, the only way to get that scholarship is to sit for the test. It’s always a nice opportunity to practice taking a standardized test. So I think it’s a great test and that’s why we’re still making it available to students, but since we are an ACT school and an ACT state, we’re putting more emphasis on the ACT.”
“I don’t think it should be required,” she said. “I think it should be a choice that you’re able to make.”
With regard to the ACT, Powrozek said that offering students a practice test like the Plan is more essential.
“Hopefully we can work that out,” she said. “Our counseling department feels that it’s an important test, because it’s aligned with the ACT, so it gives us checkpoints to talk about ‘here’s where you are, here’s where you should be, here’s what you can do to improve.’”
“My advice for students, since we don’t have the Plan, is to start taking the ACT early. A good test to start is December of the junior year, even taking it in the sophomore year for some students, just to see where they fall at that point. The best way to study for the ACT is just to practice taking it.”