This Is a Test

The exam once known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, now called the SAT Reasoning Test (or just the SAT), has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. We asked some experts across the state how they regard the standard-bearer of standardized exams.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a good indicator of future success in college. You can have a student who scores 900 on the test who will make up for whatever deficiencies they have through their work effort. We have students who test poorly who are as academically competitive as anyone, but they won’t get a chance to prove that, unfortunately, because there’s so much reliance on that test score.”
Frank Ingargiola, principal, Plainfield High School

“I’m not a big fan of standardized tests, but I have to tell you, at the high end, kids have to have those scores.”
Mike Rosenhaus, director of college counseling, Delbarton School, Morristown

“The feedback we’re receiving from guidance counselors, parents, students and alumni is overwhelmingly positive, and our faculty is behind us 100 percent. The one cohort who was a little upset about it was our current students, who obviously had to take the SAT and go through that pressure that we’re trying to alleviate.”
Mary Beth Carey, dean of admissions and financial assistance, Drew University, Madison, which has made submission of SAT scores optional

“The expectation for the SAT is not in any way lessening. Each year I see the schools looking for higher scores. Among higher-achieving students, there’s a feeling that ‘this could make or break me.’ ”
Doris Valenti, guidance counselor and testing supervisor, St. Rose High School, Belmar

“I would say at best they test 50 percent of what you know. It’s like a girl I know who got a B-minus in gym because they tested her on throwing a ball in a basket and playing kickball. They have no idea what she’s like as a swimmer, as a somersaulter, as a beach child who runs after the birds. We can’t forget that, in terms of testing, people thought Einstein and Churchill were idiots.”
Emanuel di Pasquale, poet, assistant professor of English at Middlesex County College

“I often find myself in the weird position of telling teenagers that their SAT scores won’t be the defining thing in their lives. No matter where you go to college, I tell them, you’ll learn a great deal and have great fun. In your life, no matter what your verbal score is, you’ll make friends, fall in love, and get a decent job.”
Kelly-Jane Cotter, staff writer, Asbury Park Press, and SAT instructor, South River

“It’s been around so long, people would be pretty skeptical if someone came out with a new test now. They wouldn’t want to change it.”
Kevin Forsberg, senior, Ridge High School

“In an effort to make the assessment more comprehensive, the length [3 hours, 45 minutes] has become an issue. You have students who work hard to achieve who have difficulty focusing for that long a period. It kind of runs contrary to the way society has wired and trained these kids.”
Mary Jo Kapalko, director, Academy Charter High School, Lake Como

“I think some of the kids have an advantage because they can afford to take the prep courses, so they know how to take the test. Some of these courses cost a couple of thousand dollars. I can’t begin to do that—I have four children!”
Melanie Schaffner, West Long Branch, whose son, Kyle, 18, is in his first year at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy

“I think now things are much more competitive. As a parent, I’m already telling my son, ‘Do this or you’re not going to get into a good school,’ and he’s only in the fourth grade.”
Starr Daniels, co-president, Montclair PTA

“There’s so much to learn from it that’s positive: observation skills, how to stay focused, breathing techniques, when to let go. I’m always telling people, ‘The test is not your enemy. The test is your friend. This is how you get to go to the college of your choice. This is how you get to have your life.’ ”
Jean D’Arcy Maculaitis, professional test writer and test maker

“I think I’ll handle it well because my mom will be on my case, so I should be pretty well prepared.”
Brendan Hirtes, junior, Toms River High School North

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