District May Adopt New College Board Test for Middle Schoolers

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In response to increasing competition in college admissions, the College Board has released a new test to assess middle school students' preparedness for high school and beyond.

Berkeley Unified School District officials said they will likely implement the new test, called ReadiStep, even though some parents expressed concerns about increasing the use of tests to measure students' skills.

The test, which will be administered for the first time in fall 2009, was designed by College Board professionals, middle school teachers and educational experts to diagnose students' skills in math, reading and writing.

"It was developed at the request of school districts seeking a tool to help with early identification of the skills students need to be prepared for rigorous high school courses that will help to ensure success in college," said College Board spokesperson Jennifer Topiel in an e-mail.

According to Topiel, the test is not meant to prepare students for the PSAT or SAT, which are heavily weighted in the college admissions process.

Instead, Topiel said the test would serve as a tool for teachers to see which subject areas students need to strengthen in order to succeed in both high school and college.

"ReadiStep measures student proficiency relative to other eighth-graders on a national, state and school/district level," she said in an e-mail. "Results provide information on skills that students possess, skills they need to develop and advice on how to further develop these skills."

Mark Coplan, spokesperson for the Berkeley Unified School District, said he was unaware of the test but expects that it will be integrated into the middle school curriculum if it furthers the educational goals set for students.

According to the College Board, the test-the results of which will not be looked at by colleges-is not mandatory, and individual schools or districts may decide whether to offer it. The test will not come at a cost to students.

Parents of students at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School said they had not heard of the new test, but in general thought helping students identify their weaknesses was not necessarily a bad thing.

Others, though, said the test may have other effects.

Esperanza, a parent of a middle school student who declined to give her last name because she said she was worried about her immigration status, said she feels her daughter already struggles enough with test taking because her primary language is Spanish.

"I just think this test will not accurately measure my daughter's skills, especially because she is still learning English," Esperanza said. "I know that she is intelligent, but if she takes this test and scores low in all areas, I am afraid it will discourage her from learning altogether."


Contact Cynthia Moreno at [email protected]

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