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New approach welcomed locally

– Changes announced Wednesday to the SAT college entrance exam might cause headaches for preparation programs, but they could be beneficial for colleges and students, a local official says.

College Board officials said the changes – including making the essay optional, eliminating penalties for wrong answers, and offering free test preparation and the option to test online – are needed to better align the exam with the lessons students learn in high school and the skills they will need after graduation.

Although it means changes for test-takers, the new exam could benefit students who have struggled to pass the exam or afford classes to help them prepare, said Tonishea Jackson, director of admissions at IPFW.

Most colleges and universities require minimum SAT scores. IPFW students must receive a combined score of 1420 or better on the SAT, with a minimum score of 450 on each section, officials said.

“From an admissions and enrollment standpoint, that is great,” Jackson said.

“It levels the playing field so that it’s not about individuals learning tricks of the trade for testing.

“I think it was very refreshing to hear College Board would be opening opportunities for more students to be prepared for the exam by providing those test preparation materials,” she said. “For so many years, it’s been the have and have-nots of test preparation.”

Students who could afford to prepare did, and they scored higher on tests, she explained. Meanwhile, students who couldn’t afford to prepare were not able to do as well, Jackson said.

Ivy Tech Community College Northeast is an open-enrollment institution and accepts all students who apply, so there is not a minimum SAT score requirement, said Tim Ross, director of Ivy Tech’s Express Enrollment Center. But the college does consider SAT scores when placing students in courses based on experience level, Ross said.

“We need to be able to access what level of class they need to be put into, so we make sure they don’t get in over their heads,” Ross said.

The college uses the SAT, ACT, PSAT and a similar assessment called ACCUPLACER to help determine where students should be placed.

While it may be too soon to grasp how the changes might affect future test-takers, it will affect how teachers and organizations help students prepare.

Maryann Spohn said she was aware changes were coming but hadn’t heard exactly what they would be. The English teacher at Bishop Dwenger High School teaches reading and writing for an after-school and summer SAT/ACT preparation class. The fee is $195 and includes the text for the course.

“I know a year ago, they were looking at making some fairly major changes to the test,” Spohn said.

Spohn and math teacher James LaMarca offer a seven-week test preparation session for 60 to 90 students that focuses on reading, writing, math and science.

“Basically, we make the students aware of the format of the test and go through the specific question types and how to approach them,” Spohn said.

Krista Stockman, Fort Wayne Community Schools spokeswoman, said students receive some SAT preparation as part of everyday lessons.

About 1,000 FWCS students take the SAT each year.

“In our high schools, there is some SAT prep that happens,” Stockman said. “So as far as teaching students test strategies will change a bit.”

jcrothers@jg.net

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