Since 1955, the High School Placement Test has been the standard for determining 8th grade students’ mastery of skills like math, reading and deductive reasoning when they apply to a private high school. For a long time, this wasn’t controversial. However, it has recently become clear that these tests aren’t the best way to determine high school preparedness or future success. Learn about why Presentation High School has removed the High School Placement Test from its admissions process.
Lack of Equity
Educators have realized in recent years that “standardized” doesn’t necessarily mean “fair.” Parents want their children to succeed in school, and for some, that means spending a great deal of time and money on test preparation courses. These courses focus on practicing the test to prepare students for taking the real thing. By definition, it’s studying for the test, not learning the material. The main problem with this is that not all families can afford these courses. Students whose families can afford these expensive courses get an unfair advantage.
Test taking places unnecessary stress on 8th graders as they prepare to move into the next phase of their lives. Eighth graders have enough to worry about without the High School Placement Test looming over their heads.
“The test adds an additional layer of stress for students who are in the 8th grade,” Presentation Principal Kristina Luscher said. “We find this new approach is an innovative way to support students as they navigate the admissions process and transition into high school.”
By removing this stressor, the Admissions team prioritizes getting to know students rather than the data from the test. There are plenty of other ways to determine if a student will be successful, such as teacher recommendations, essays and middle school grades. These have all proven to be better measures of future success.
Drilling down on the data, Luscher found no correlation between the High School Placement Test and student achievement. It was clear the test was not a strong indicator. Generally, students who excel at test taking do well on the High School Placement Test. While Presentation is an early adopter of removing this type of test at the high school level, they’re not alone. Colleges and universities have made similar findings in regards to SAT and ACT testing, and they are moving away from these tests as an entry requirement. As a college preparatory high school, Presentation has decided to align more with the policies of the colleges they’re preparing students to one day attend. As emphasis moves away from testing, the academic programs continue to focus on student achievement and college preparation.
“We’re still going to be a rigorous academic school,” Luscher said. “We just don’t feel that information is missing now that we would have otherwise gotten from the test.”
What Pres Does Instead
Testing has not been removed from the admissions process entirely, but it’s no longer a blanket requirement. If students want to start out in more advanced courses, they can take targeted tests for the courses that interest them. However, the emphasis for incoming students has moved away from testing and toward relationship building. Building relationships and preparing students at an academic level can often happen simultaneously. Students can attend programs in the summer and throughout the school year to learn about Presentation. During STEM Fest, for example, 7th graders learn about science through demonstrations put on by Presentation’s science teachers and students. This provides an opportunity not only to learn, but also to meet these teachers and learn about life at Presentation. Another way the school makes room for relationship building is through a program called Panther Chats.
Relationship Building with “Panther Chats”
Panther Chats are one of the newest innovations to the Presentation admissions process. These 10-15 minute conversations provide an opportunity for prospective students to meet the school’s teachers and decide if Presentation is the right fit. Director of Admissions Lindsay Velez recalls a Panther Chats session where the young women started the process full of nerves before they visited the teachers. Then, after emerging from their respective classrooms, they had big smiles on their faces and an excited, positive outlook. This is just one example of how emphasizing relationship building makes for a more meaningful admissions process.
“Schools can lean too heavily on test scores, but the students themselves get lost. We focus on relationship building and looking at each student as their whole self” —Lindsay Velez, Director of Admissions
Creating a Better Admissions Process
Focusing on students helps set them up for success. The traditional approach centered on testing worked well enough and still works well enough for other schools, but Presentation has shifted the focus to building relationships in order to create a better atmosphere for incoming students.
Presentation High School has made mental health, inclusion and equity top priorities, while continuing to offer rigorous academic programs that allow students to achieve academic excellence as they prepare for life in college and beyond. You can request more information about the Presentation admissions process and schedule a tour by sending an email to email@example.com.