Principals Look For Tests That Give Feedback

So why do high school students need yet another pre-test?

Officals at Kaplan Learning Services say that teens need the Kaplan exam to address deficiencies, and schools need it to adjust their curriculm.

"It's more than a score, it's a learning tool. You'll get an analysis of student performance almost question by question," says Joe Scherer, executive director of Kaplan Learning Services' K-12 partnerships.

For example, instead of just a math score, students will see a breakdown of how they did in algebra, geometry, and arithmetic, as well as suggestions for how to improve performance on future tests.

A typical feedback comment might be: "You have failed to master quadratic equations. Here's where you can go to address this." In some schools, such recommendations could be targeted to actual courses and textbooks used in class.

But critics at the College Board question whether Kaplan can deliver accurate information about actual SAT tests to parents and principals.

"If you tell kids that these are the things you need to know for the test, how do you know that's valid? We do practice tests regularly and for free," says Wayne Camara, executive director for research and development for the College Board, which administers the SAT tests.

Still, many high school principals now find themselves under fire when SAT scores drop.

"We need an evaluation that will serve as a link between identifying specific problem areas and developing curricula to remedy them appropriately," says Timothy Dyer, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, which is cosponsoring the new tests.

"This partnership will enable us to offer that at schools across the country," he adds.

The new Kaplan tests, to be available early next year, will be offered on a voluntary basis to 23,000 high schools across the country. Each test comes with discount coupons for other Kaplan test prep courses, books, and software.

"There is no question that accountability has left the school district office and gone to the school building in the last four to five years," says Kaplan's Scherer. "That is why people are so concerned about finding where they can have an impact."

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