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JEFF MEADORS: Early testing criticial for high school students

High school sophomores, now hear this.

Take the American College Test and the Scholastic Aptitude Test sooner rather than later.

Early test taking is typically encouraged by parents but not schools. Schools may push students to test late. Pushing students to take national tests late in high school may block student access to accelerated college programs and scholarship dollars. The higher HOPE payout requires an ACT composite of 26 or an SAT math and critical reading total of 1200 as a starting point — a tall order for most high school students testing for the first time as seniors.

Late testing may boost the annual scorecard of an individual school, but it leaves many students in the lurch — the result of bad education practice and doing what’s best for schools, not students.

It’s a fair assumption that students in today’s globally competitive workforce need credentials. CTAE programs, accelerated college tracks, work-based learning opportunities, paid and non-paid internships — all part of a labyrinth of pathways putting students into new settings where professional skills blend with theory and practice. Students who firmly grasp all options available to them in almost all cases will leave high school with the odds stacked in their favor.

Problem is — most students find out about these options too late.

We can’t let the race to the top of the annual school score card harm students who often find themselves in grade 12 with ineligible scores for their pursuits and no test dates remaining.

For many of these students a level of proficiency on national tests is requisite to an accelerated march forward. Yet when top-down school incentives exist for schools to encourage students to test late in their high school career, then valuable options get tossed from the table.

Students need early practice with national tests. High school sophomores should take fall or early spring ACT and SAT exams, leaving a second test administration in the sophomore year available to them in case they need higher scores for eligibility to a variety of programs available to them in grades 11 and 12.

The late registration deadline for the Sept. 13 ACT is this coming Friday, Aug. 22. Eastside High is a test site for the Sept. 13 ACT. Heritage High is a site for the Oct. 25 ACT.

Students have until Sept. 12 to register for the first SAT administration of the new school year to be given Oct. 11.

The Newton Campus of Georgia Perimeter College proctors both ACT and SAT exams.

Students may send SAT scores to GPC using code 5711 and send ACT scores using code 0806.

Test practice is available for the ACT at www.actstudent.org and for the SAT at sat.collegeboard.org or www.collegeboard.org.

Test prep is also available at www.gacollege411.org, in high school media centers and school counseling offices.

Students with early practice on national tests have more room to position themselves for more HOPE money and greater access to accelerated college programs in Board of Regents’ schools where HOPE rigor requirements are met through core classes.

Students need to keep all options on the table. Early practice on national tests does just that.

Jeff Meadors contributes occasional analysis and opinion on education and schools.