By CATHERINE RHA
During the week of 3/04, the schedule will be adjusted to accommodate for administration of the PSAT 8/9, PACT, and CAST exams, as well as Senior Activity day.
IUSD decided to administer the PACT this year in order to diversify testing opportunities for students, as an extension of their overarching goal to increase student access to test prep materials.
“When practice tests are on weekends, not all students are able to attend or can afford these practice test opportunities,” said head counselor Ms. Hanna Addessi, who is in charge of administering the tests. “With tests held during school, a majority of students (552 9th graders) were able to take a practice SAT 8/9 last year… Increased access to practice tests alone has pushed IUSD (Irvine Unified School District) to want to keep funding practice tests at the district level.”
The PACT and PSAT 8/9 are both preparatory tests that predict performance on their corresponding tests, the ACT and SAT respectively. Both tests are shorter than their parent tests, and their questions have been adjusted for use by high school freshmen (PSAT 8/9) and sophomores (PACT). The PSAT 8/9 differs from the PSAT in that the PSAT’s target demographic are juniors and that high scorers may apply for the National Merit Scholarship award. The PACT and PSAT 8/9 have no scholarship opportunities.
Although many students were unaware of the approaching testing week, some were positive about it, noting that it would provide increased test prep access for students.
“It’s really good because having the PSAT [8/9] and PACT gives students a chance to see how they are going to perform on either the SAT or ACT and then choose which test to take based on their scores on the PSAT and ACT,” said sophomore Amerdeep Passananti. “It gives students free prep because a lot of people can’t afford a 2,000 dollar prep class, and so if Uni is giving students free prep with the Pre ACT or PSAT to give access to low income students that’s really great.”
However, others were upset over class time being taken for practice testing, with some arguing that teachers may have to cram information during lessons in order to make up for lost teaching time, and others berating the impractical nature of the PSAT 8/9.
“The PSAT 8/9 was such a waste of time last year,” said sophomore Iris Yang. “The PSAT 8/9 was not even close to the real PSAT. I don’t want to sound too entitled, but I feel like it was for the people who weren’t in as many honors classes… For [honors students] it is basically unnecessary but for [CP students] it’s good for them to see where they are.”
Many teachers felt ambivalent about the testing schedule.
“I don’t think it is necessarily necessary, but for some kids it makes it a lot easier for them to do the PSAT [8/9] and PACT; CAST testing isn’t really optional so it always changes our schedule anyways,” said teacher Ms. Valerie Thompson. “I think in the early years they tried to spread out all the testing through weeks of time, and it ended up being even more disruptive, so the more compact the testing schedule can be, the less days it impacts, the better.”
However, others are opposed to the tests being given out during the school week due to perceiving these tests as relatively unimportant and unhelpful to the student population.
“I don’t like the idea of giving up class time for [the PSAT 8/9]”, said teacher Mr. Josh Davis. If it was the real PSAT then I could understand [giving up class time], but a practice PSAT, giving up class time? Nope, not a big fan.”
The PACT and PSAT 8/9 are being funded by a one-time readiness grant of $331,340, which allowed IUSD to administer the PSAT 8/9 to all freshmen for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years free of cost as well as the PACT for this year.
IUSD is looking into continuing to offer district-wide practice tests next year as well, although the selection of tests offered may differ from this year’s depending on student needs. If they decide to continue with these tests, then they plan on using funds set aside by the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) that IUSD had approved for the 2018-2020 school years.
While planning the testing schedule for this year, the school administration tried to minimize disruptions to the school schedule by clustering these schedule-changing events all in one week. Senior Activity Day in particular was moved from May to 3/07, the CAST/PACT/PSAT 8/9 test date, due to scheduling conflicts in May, as well as in order to capitalize on a day with shorter class times.
“Both practice exams are going to be administered on the same day as the CAST (state testing for 11th graders in science), to minimize how much time this is taking from class,” Addessi said. “Three hours in the morning have been set aside for testing on March 7th, as many students and teachers felt a time crunch during testing last year.”