Daily Archives: March 31, 2011

Debating the value of college admissions ‘test prep’ programs

Education Week reports:

Derek Briggs, the chairman of the research and evaluation methodology program in the school of education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has examined how much SAT score increases can be attributed to the effect of test prep.

Test-prep programs generally include three elements: a review of test content, practice on test questions, and orientation to the format of the test. In 2009, in cooperation with NACAC, Mr. Briggs reviewed three national data sets and found the average effect of commercial coaching is positive, but slight. Test-score bumps were more in the neighborhood of 30 points (on a 1,600-point scale at the time), far from what some in the industry claim. He does point out that there may be specific programs that are more effective than others, but evidence to support that is weak.

Considering the results of Mr. Briggs’ and earlier studies, NACAC concludes that test-prep activities and coaching have a “minimal positive effect on both the SAT and the ACT.”

FULL DISCLOSURE: Dr. Briggs is on the faculty at the U. of Colorado at Boulder, where I am a Ph.D. candidate. I have studied with Dr. Briggs in the past.

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International Summit on Teaching reveals U. S.’s approach to K-12 education differs greatly from other nations

Writing in the Washington Post, Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammod reports on the International Summit on Teaching, a first-of-its-kind event held in New York City this past month:

Evidence presented at the s ummit showed that, with dwindling supports, most teachers in the United States must go into debt in order to prepare for an occupation that pays them, on average, 60% of the salaries earned by other college graduates. Those who work in poor districts will not only earn less than their colleagues in wealthy schools, but they will pay for many of their students’ books and supplies themselves.

And with states’ willingness to lower standards rather than raise salaries for the teachers of the poor, a growing number of recruits enter with little prior training, trying to learn on-the-job with the uneven mentoring provided by cash-strapped districts. It is no wonder that a third of U.S. beginners leave within the first five years, and those with the least training leave at more than twice the rate of those who are well-prepared.

Those who stay are likely to work in egg-crate classrooms with few opportunities to collaborate with one another. In many districts, they will have little more than “drive-by” workshops for professional development, and – if they can find good learning opportunities, they will pay for most of it out of their own pockets.

Meanwhile, some policymakers argue that we should eliminate requirements for teacher training, stop paying teachers for gaining more education, let anyone enter teaching, and fire those later who fail to raise student test scores.