Critics: New 8th-grade test a ‘pre-pre-pre SAT'

Amid growing challenges to its role as the pre-eminent force in college admissions testing, the College Board on Wednesday introduced a new exam it says will help prepare eighth-graders for rigorous high school courses and college.

The test, which will be available to schools next fall, is intended only for assessment and instructional purposes and has nothing to do with college admissions, College Board officials said.

“This is not at all a pre-pre-pre SAT,” said Lee Jones, a College Board vice president. “It's a diagnostic tool to provide information about students' strengths and weaknesses.”

The College Board, which owns the SAT and PSAT, made its announcement when an increasing percentage of high school students are taking the rival ACT and amid mounting concern over what critics call the misuses of the SAT and ACT and other standardized tests in college admissions.

Those critics dismissed the new test for eighth-graders as just what Jones said it was not: “a pre-pre-pre SAT.”

“Who needs yet another pre-college standardized exam when there is already a pre-SAT and the SAT test itself?” said Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest, a nonpartisan group that has called for colleges and universities to make standardized tests optional for admissions. “The new test will only accelerate the college admissions arms race and push it down onto ever younger children.”

Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board, said the new test had been developed in response to the demand from schools and districts, which he said had requested a “tool that would help them determine before high school what measures should be taken to ensure that students are on the path to being college ready.”

Caperton and other officials refused to identify any of the schools and districts that had requested the test.

Officials offered to provide the names of educators from interested schools and districts, and subsequently made available two people: Susan Rusk, the coordinator of counseling for the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nev., and James Choike, a professor of mathematics at Oklahoma State University.

Rusk is on the College Board's board of trustees, and Choike helped develop the new test.

The Washoe County School District made the PSAT mandatory for all 10th graders a couple of years ago, Rusk said, and pays for students to take the test.

She said she thought the new test could inform parents and teachers about whether “kids are on track with the particular skills they would need as they go forward into taking the PSAT and SAT and being ready for college.”