PSATs Will Not Help Walpole High School Long Term


Lauren Wigren

A student fills out the sign-up forms for the PSAT. (Photo/ Lauren Wigren)
A student fills out the sign-up forms for the PSAT. (Photo/ Lauren Wigren)

The PSAT costs $14 for one student. Multiply that cost by the 300 plus students in the junior class, and the Walpole School District spent around $4,000 on PSAT fees for the entire junior class to take the test during school on Wednesday, October 15.  For a school that never explicitly addresses SAT or PSAT test material in the classroom curricula, is administering a private exam such as the PSAT during the school day really the best possible use of school money and classtime?

Admittedly, Walpole High School’s SAT scores are not the best they could be, and the district should focus on improving them. However, paying for students to take the PSATs during the school day is costly and inefficient.  It communicates to students that their scores will improve if they have more experience taking a high-stakes private assessment.  However, that mentality seems inconsistent with a school that is currently trying to abandon Midyear Assessments, for if administrators believe student performances will improve by taking longer assessments then why are they progressively moving toward getting rid of the longer Midyear periods?  More significantly though, wouldn’t student scores improve more if they actually learned more in class?  If their teachers prepared them more for those assessments?

Instead of mandating that all juniors take the PSAT assessment, Walpole should attempt to embed SAT material into the current English and Mathematics curriculum.  If those assessments are that important, Walpole Public School system should educate students about the numerous advantages of taking the PSATs through booklets, assemblies, class discussions, and instruction.  If the Walpole School Committee wants to improve the scores, they should encourage educators to focus more specifically on PSAT test questions.

This issue of providing access to all students to this assessment is the best reason for making this change.  Walpole Public Schools should help these students financially if students want to take the test but genuinely cannot afford it.  However, paying for the entire junior class is extravagant and unnecessary.

Teachers are also being put at a disadvantage. PSATs were held on Wednesday morning during school. This gave teachers less time to cover material that will be assessed on upcoming tests, midyear exams, and AP exams.The traditional Saturday morning PSAT allows the student to get the preparation they need for the SATs without missing out on information in their academic classes.

The school obviously cannot pay for all kinds of brand-new high-tech accommodations with $4,000, but it is a start. Texts books are falling apart, and students do not always have a computer to use for class. The amount of money spent on PSAT fees is enough to buy up to ten new chromebooks. Chemical Health Night is an event held for the school athletes every year, in which a guest speaker encourages the audience to say no to drugs and alcohol. The event is generally well-received and has a tremendous impact on students. The $4,000 that the school spent on test fees could be put towards another guest speaker that will motivate and get through to students.

Also, if Walpole insists on paying PSAT fees for students, then why isn’t the same being done for other high-stakes tests? The ACT is a standardized exam that can be submitted to college admissions along with or in place of SAT scores, and offers suggestions as to which careers a particular student should consider. Like the PSAT, the ACT can also be used as a means of preparation for the SATs if a student plans to take both tests.  Why shouldn’t students receive equal opportunity when it comes to tests such as the ACT?

Moreover, while some other schools in the state have successfully administered these private exams during school hours, the Walpole School Committee should consider the messages this administration sends to students, for if preparing for the SAT is really that important, why isn’t SAT-preparation a greater part of the Walpole High curricula?  If those curricula remain separate from these private assessments deemed important, any bump in scores will be nominal at best.