Assessments help students find pathway to opportunities
Assessments help students find pathway to opportunitiesBarbara Jenkins, Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, Orange County, FL
This post originally appeared in the Orlando Sentinel on October 14, 2015. Click here to access the original article.
With so much discussion of late regarding testing, this is a good time to talk about some positive aspects of student assessment that can provide significant opportunities for their future.
As educators and parents, we strive to ensure our students achieve success. In fact, the Orange County Public Schools mission states we will "lead our students to success with the support and involvement of families and the community." We want them to graduate high school, enter college or another post-secondary institution, or immediately begin a rewarding career. Ultimately, we endeavor to help our students reach their goals and take ownership of their future. Making this a reality for nearly 200,000 students is no easy task.
We have seen both within the district and in research that access to college-level course work while in high school contributes to better outcomes for students. That is why OCPS has put a major emphasis on Advanced Placement (college level) course work. More than 34 percent of high-school students took at least one AP course last year, which partially earned the district AP Honor Roll status in 2015 for the third time. Honor Roll status requires that you also improve the number of students passing the test at the end of the course and thereby earning college credit.
Of special note is that, among black and Hispanic students, we have almost doubled AP enrollment numbers since 2007-2008, while at the same time increasing passing rates. Thirty-five percent more blacks passed the AP exams, and 18 percent more Hispanics scored 3 or better. The AP courses can also assist students in the college-admissions process and save them time and money.
The PSAT is connected to the SAT and helps show how students are doing over time. That means parents, students and teachers can identify areas of strength and areas where more support is needed. Recently, the test was redesigned to better assess college readiness and better reflect what students are learning in classrooms. These changes mirror those made to the SAT, a key component of the college-admissions process.
Another important insight that comes from PSAT scores is the student "AP Potential" report, indicating which Advanced Placement courses they're most likely to succeed in. This information helps us funnel a larger pool of students into AP courses, expanding the possibilities for future success. Often the PSAT results help identify students who might easily be overlooked for AP enrollment.
Over the past year and a half, the College Board — the organization that designs the PSAT, SAT and AP — announced new benefits connected to the PSAT that will help students on the path to college. New partnerships have expanded access to nearly $180 million in scholarships for PSAT-takers this school year.
Additionally, the College Board and Khan Academy have built free, personalized practice tools available to all students. These tools help reinforce the work being done in class and prepare students to take the PSAT and the SAT. When students receive their PSAT scores this year, they'll be able to upload them to Khan Academy to receive additional SAT practice recommendations designed just for them.
Today students are doing more than just taking a test. They are meeting an important milestone on their journey through high school and unlocking access to scholarships, advanced course work and practice tools.
It takes a multifaceted approach and a strong community within and around our schools to lead our students to success.
Barbara Jenkins is superintendent of Orange County Public Schools.