[October 19th] This past Wednesday, October 17th, MCPS students underwent one gruesome yearly ritual, the catalyst of college-app frenzy: the PSAT(s). For freshmen, this test marks their first encounter with College Board. Reactions to the test vary largely; some declare that they aren’t shaken, while others saw a different ball of wax. Meanwhile, juniors, many of whom will use their PSAT scores for the National Merit Scholarship Competition, felt the onset of pressure.
When asked if nervous, Grace Chen, a freshman at Wootton High school, answered with a nonchalant “Not really.”
“It’s only freshman year.” She paused, then elaborated, “I guess it depends on the section. I’ve been practicing for math and reading comprehension, but writing is iffy.”
Some veterans of the test are calm and relaxed. Michael Cao, a junior, felt that PSATs are “good practice” and “no big deal”.
“If you did well on the SATs then PSATs should be easy.” Michael said.
Nonetheless, the test raised a few eyebrows for other test takers. Sophomore Jasmine Wung had a few complaints about the way the test was administered, “I think I would do a lot better on the PSATs if they are given in a better environment and not in a freezing cold room on a morning. I usually feel really sick and/or fall asleep during this time,” she said, adding, “I did the practice PSAT at home and scored 30 points higher than I did at school. Just proving a point.”
“I usually huddle for warmth when I finish. And try the keep the penguins from eating my pencil,” Jasmine added.
Freshman Denaly Morales believes that the PSAT(s) are a good idea in that they are a stepping stone for planning ahead. However, the test itself is quite annoying; “I’m more confused [than nervous] during the PSAT” She said. “The test tests us on things we haven’t learned yet, and teachers don’t usually place an emphasis on preparing us for the SATs.”
I for one, shake and quiver at the thought of PSAT. As a freshman still adapting to the high-school-pace of life, the PSATs hover over my shoulder like a dark cloud of worry. Not to mention that my parents paid fourteen dollars for a test that could be factored into deciding what classes I take next year. In a dramatic sense, the PSAT looms ominously in my horizon like Mt. Vesuvius on the morning of the great Pompeii eruption.
On a broader scale, according to SAT achievements by Class of 2012, MCPS is getting better at preparing its students for this dreaded ritual. In fact, not only did the Class of 2012 set an all-time record for MCPS SAT achievement, but also surpassed but that of its peers across the state and nation by a clear mile. Since its formation, the “Seven Keys to College and Career Readiness” protocol had set 1650 (combined SAT score) as the target score for MCPS. In the past year, more than 50% of the 2012 graduating class has attained that goal.
Other highlights of MCPS performance include:
Nonetheless, MCPS still faces considerable challenges in enclosing the achievement gap between students of varying demographics. While nineteen of Montgomery County’s twenty five high schools celebrated the boost in their average SAT combined score last year, the school system did notice a widening performance gap among racial groups (Bondeson, Gazette).
“We continue to see steady growth in SAT performance from all students and I am very pleased that more of our students are showing they are ready for postsecondary opportunities,” said Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr, “While the scores are moving in the right direction, we must recognize that there are persistent gaps that must be addressed if we are going to fulfill our promise of equity and excellence.”
Article by Shannon Jin, Freshman at Wootton High School, SAC press correspodnent; graphic by Jessica Li, Junior at Richard Montgomery High School, SAC press secretary