Chariot Learning Blog

No one who knows me or my work would be surprised by my unequivocal endorsement of the value of properly designed and administered standardized tests. Nor would a single soul be shocked by my convictions about the value of the right tests in academic admissions decisions. My support for testing doesn’t spring from my profession as an educator. In fact, the opposite is true. Testing acumen opened access to the kind of high quality high school education most Bronx kids just don’t get. Tests scores also secured special scholarships that made a SUNY degree at least somewhat affordable. My experience is, by no means, unique, but neither is it the narrative we’ve heard about testing over the last several years. The SAT was explicitly introduced to open doors to higher education that were previously closed to certain cultural, religious, and ethnic groups. The SAT and ACT still fulfill that mission,…

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Sophisticated standardized exams like the SAT & ACT are, by their very nature and purpose, designed to be challenging yet accessible to all test takers. The architects of these instruments accomplish those twin goals by testing fundamental reading, writing, and math skills that everyone, in theory, should know in ways that exploit what they don’t know. That said, most teens bring little awareness of how these tests are designed the first time they sit down to take one. How hard can a test like this be anyway for someone who has been learning reading, writing, and math since kindergarten? Instead, like the fabled citizens of Lake Wobegone, most of us suffer from a tendency to overestimate our achievements and capabilities in relation to others. Yet, we cannot all be better than average on a test meticulously scaled to ensure that exactly half of test takers fall at or below the…

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One topic I never tire of hearing, learning, talking, and writing about is preparation. What makes the principle of preparation so compelling? Simply put, all of our wildest dreams and aspirations become possible and perhaps even easy to achieve with the right preparation. Do you have big goals for this new year? Have you resolved to be better than you were last year? The path to everything you can hope for lies through preparation… We hope you choose to make this–and EVERY–year your year of preparation!

Over nearly thirty years as an educator and much longer than that as someone who had to take tests that mattered, one truth about tests has always been evident: entrance exams to academic institutions have too often been seen as obstacles rather than opportunities. This sentiment continues to surprise me in a society where we value both hard work and winning. After all, admissions tests are, by nature of scarce access to institutions, competitions. What Americans don’t like competitions?! That said, I’ve always excelled at tests, so my opinion may be considered biased. I’m far from the only advocation for good entrance exams, though. I found the unattributed quote below in 2021 and have held it back while searching for authorship. Even without knowing what teenager wrote these words, the message tells us a lot about both the messenger and their fundamental understanding of how the opportunity offered by entrance…

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A full academic year lasts a long time, unless you are a student, teacher, or faculty member, in which case it lasts a REALLY long time. From the end of one summer to the beginning of the next, high schoolers navigate an obstacle course of exams, projects, papers, and extracurricular commitments, punctuated by the occasional day or week off. Success on big tests like the ACT depends in part on scheduling preparation and testing during the less frenetic months in a student’s schedule. That’s what makes the February ACT so attractive. What really goes on in January? In my part of the country, students take midterms in January, but those tests don’t trigger anywhere near the stress of finals, APs, or state tests in the spring. Certain sports obviously run through the winter months. However, an ironic advantage of winter sports is that practices are rarely rescheduled for inclement weather…

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The beginning of December can be a very busy time for anyone connected with test prep or college planning.  Why? That’s when students start to get their PSAT scores back and, consequently, when parents get to see their child’s PSAT scores.  For many families, this marks the official beginning of a year or more of test-related angst and pressure. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re a parent who hasn’t yet learned what these scores mean and what your next steps should be, consider these tips to get you through the initial discovery of your child’s PSAT score: Other than for National Merit and related scholarship consideration, your child’s PSAT score means nothing!  In fact, a 10th grader’s PSAT score is not even used for National Merit Scholarship competition.  While the PSAT does offer a useful baseline to predict future SAT performance, it is, for all intents and purposes,…

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