It is common knowledge that aside from high school grades, course rigor and extra curriculars, high standardized test scores are an integral attribute to have on a college application. Junior year has earned its reputation as the most difficult and stressful year in high school not only from the idea that students take their most difficult classes that year, but also have the constant burden of standardized testing weighing on their shoulders.
The College Board advertises that both the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and American College Test (ACT) are purely testing the proficiency of students’ knowledge of curriculum they learned solely through their K-12 education. However, most tutoring programs typically deny this, marketing their business as having tutors trained specifically for mastering the sneaky methods of The College Board. Currently, the Paly College and Career Center website provides options for free online test preparation, primarily PrepMe, a service available through Naviance. A plethora of books are also available for checkout from the library and college and career center itself.
Most students who are able to afford a private tutoring company for college entrance exams attend them. How could someone not want to when these companies practically guarantee at least a 200 point increase in score?
The most popular program for Paly students is AJ Tutoring, with locations in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. AJ offers a group prep class consisting of nine two-hour classes, costing $990. There are also individualized courses that are priced at over $1,000.
“People are concerned because they want to do well. In this geographical area in general, so many people have the means to pay for it [tutoring], and nerves and money go well together,” Cernobori said. “I would hate to leave people with the impression that its necessary to get a professional tutor to master standardized testing. In addition, out of over 3,000 colleges, the majority of colleges admit on a holistic basis and CSU’s as well as other public schools are one of the few to do a numbers game.”
Junior Emma Sternfield attends AJ Tutoring every other week as preparation for the ACT.
“[Tutoring] has another person reassuring your progress and guiding you through techniques,” Sternfield says. “They inform you about how to manipulate and know the types of questions. I think it depends on personality; if you’re self-motivated and you really know how to study for standardized tests, then you don’t need a tutor, but personally I’m not that type of person.”
With many Paly students enrolled in some sort of test preparation program, whether it be individual or group, students whose families cannot afford these programs are at disadvantage. Since Paly has always been committed to the success of all students after high school, the school should offer some sort of free class for interested students. Programs like Palo Alto Partners in Education could use some of their funds to compensate tutors for their time devoted to the implementation of the program.
Due to Paly’s competitive environment, the incentive to perform well on standardized tests is felt throughout all four years, and some sort of assistance for students to achieve whatever goals they have would be greatly appreciated.
“If they were to implement this program at Paly, I think that there should be group and individual program, because different types of people work best in different learning dynamics,” Sternfield said.
“It’s hard for me because I am not self-motivated, my ideal situation would be working with a tutor, but it’s just so ridiculously expensive,” junior Gabi Rossner says. “I know the school offers online tutoring, but I cannot learn that way and if the school offered some sort of real life SAT tutor, I would definitely take advantage of it.”
Regardless of Palo Alto’s affluence, there are still students whose families cannot afford private programs, and with the fairness of the education system constantly in question, there should be as many possibilities to make getting a solid education a more leveled playing field.
Although the importance of standardized testing is often overexaggerated, some method of direct assistance should be provided by the school and would be beneficial.