39 Test Scores Shouldn’t Define Students Being Placed in Writing Courses

Jordyn Varone

Standardized tests such as the SAT are required nearly for all four-year college admissions. Almost all two-year colleges require new students to take at least one placement test when they first get to campus. The question is, why do four-year colleges use SAT scores, and two-year colleges use self-placement tests? Is it because four-year colleges can accept or decline a student based on their test score and two-year schools accept everyone? The issue with having tests like the SAT determining what course is best for a student is viewing students based on their score instead of catering to each students’ individual needs. Having the option of deciding what course is best for a certain student should also be aided by a university but ultimately the decision should be up to that student. The purpose of a writing placement test is to determine which course within a specific program best matches a student’s writing strengths and weaknesses. In addition to placement testing, portfolios allow the student an opportunity to showcase a variety of their work unlike the SAT only using one score. We need to stop implementing the SAT and start using the writing portion of the SAT, self-placement tests, and portfolios to determine what writing course students take.

The SAT involves numerous different subjects requiring students to multitask their knowledge. Unlike the SAT, the essay portion of this standardized test, specifically focuses on writing. The question is why are Universities and the administrators of the SAT implementing these test scores and not making all the sections of the test the same amount of time? The essence of Kristen di Gennaro’s argument is the College Board’s decision to minimize the role of the SAT essay test as an admission that it was a poor measure of writing ability. According to Les Perelman, retired MIT professor and outspoken critic of the SAT essay test since its inception, giving test takers only 25 minutes to read, reflect, and respond intelligently to a topic in writing is an “absurd” task (297). Using writing scores from a portion of the test that is only allotted twenty-five minutes to read, reflect, and respond is unacceptable. Students are not performing to the best of their ability because the time for each section is not enough. Students not receiving enough time to complete a test to their best ability can lead to misplacing students in not only writing courses but other courses due to their test result from not receiving enough time to accurately complete their test to the best of their ability. Administrators need to start giving a longer time limit so students can produce more accurate work. Making each section of the test the same allotted time instead of one longer than the other would give the student somewhat of a more accurate result and allow students to create better writing overall.

​​ In addition to implementing more time for the writing portion of the SAT, another solution is the use of writing placement tests as well as guided self-placement tests.“The purpose of a writing placement test is to determine which course within a specific program best matches a student’s writing strengths and weaknesses. For a placement test to be useful, it must be aligned with a program’s course offerings. The best way to achieve this necessary alignment is through the development of locally designed placement tools, or tools that are adapted for the local environment” (di Gennaro,296). This also gives the student aid from not only the university but the results from the self-placement test to give somewhat of a foundation on where to begin with writing courses and a more accurate result. “Guided self placement (GSP) is a locally developed tool or process that allows students, in consultation with counselors or other faculty, to determine suitable coursework including the appropriate mathematics, English and English as a second language (ESL) entry level class” (ASCCC, 1). Having the access to multiple faculty members that can help guide students to which course level is academically appropriate and should be emphasized more to students.  The benefits of using GSP results are students receive career counseling, clarify overall educational goals, selecting a major, etc. Having access to multiple resources to help guide students to achieve their career and career path just because universities are implementing self-placement tests and guided self placement tests are more beneficial than using SAT results. These results allow students to meet with the faculty needed to help build a foundation for the student to then decide which course and career path they want to pursue.

Along with self-placement tests another option that is beneficial would be the use of writing portfolios created by students. Having multiple writing pieces that are compiled of a student’s work such as essays, poems, short stories, etc. is displaying the diversity in student’s work that a standardized test cannot provide. Although, many students and administrators from universities would believe that a writing portfolio is too much labor and time consuming to evaluate when a student may not be one-hundred percent invested in the university yet, it is beneficial. Some students might not be good test takers and do not receive a high score on standardized tests such as the SAT but perform well in writing, a portfolio of a student’s previous writing assignment can display the students achievements that a standardized test cannot. It can also show the progress a student makes within their writing, over the course of a certain timeline whether it is a year of taking a course or the overall course of the student’s academic career.  Portfolios become critical in this because students can put previous work they have done and have no time limit, just a deadline to turn it in which students are able to choose which assignment they feel best displays their writing skills.

With the use of implementing longer timed sections for the SAT to allow students to create more accurate work and the use of portfolios and self-placement tests, the writing process can fully take place by not being rushed. Students will actually have the opportunity to fully think about what they are writing instead of worrying about finishing the prompt due to a time limit. More thoughtful writing can also be produced. The topic should also be chosen by the student, writing a prompt that does not relate to you can be so much more difficult and make the student not connect or be able to produce good writing. Choosing a topic to write about can also show if the writer deserves to be placed in a specific course because you can tell how much effort or passion they feel behind their writing and again if they can connect or not. Showing a student’s assets should be advertised more instead of their test scores. We need to stop implementing the SAT and start using the writing portion of the SAT, self-placement tests, and portfolios to determine what writing course students take

 

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Good Ideas About Writing by Jordyn Varone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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