Task force recommends SAT prep course for Aspen High
Aspen High School may soon offer a graded, elective SAT and ACT prep course in an effort to help its students get into more elite universities.The prep course is one of several recommendations in a report by a district task force looking into how Aspen students fare on college entrance exams. The report, assembled by 13 district employees and parents over the last nine months and released yesterday, found Aspen’s top students are often not getting the scores they need to gain entrance into selective universities.The report cited evidence that across the country college admission requirements are becoming more stringent and entrance tests harder and longer. Two and half hours of questions were added to the SAT this year, and 25 percent of Harvard’s student body is now made up of students who scored a perfect 1,600. This trend is troubling for Aspen High School, where nearly 90 percent of students plan to earn a higher-education degree, and more than 1 in 3 students intend to enroll in competitive out-of-state universities.”We all think our kids here in Aspen are very special. In the world of college admissions, however, they are just another fish in a big sea. It doesn’t matter that they are special and from Aspen. The test scores do matter,” task force member Kathy Alexander said.The report found that poor to average students at Aspen High School based on grade-point average perform as well as or better than their counterparts across the state and nation. However, students in the top 25 percent of their class often lag similar students at schools across the country.For example, Aspen’s top students averaged 590 on SAT math compared to a national average of 600. Also of concern is that the school’s average test scores for all students were lower than most other schools ranked “excellent” by the Colorado Department of Education. Aspen’s scores were also lower than other public high schools that offer an advanced International Baccalaureate program. The performance gap is much greater for math than English sections on the entrance exams. The report said such performance gaps should be disappointing given the demographics of the Aspen community.”Because of the type of people who live in Pitkin County – almost half have attended college – we have high expectations for our students. We need to figure out how scores can match our expectations,” Alexander said. To help boost performance, the task force suggested offering an elective prep course at the high school. Such an elective course gives a letter grade but is not part of the school’s mandatory curriculum. Speech and economics are two examples of current electives at the high school. The elective course would supplement an after-school testing prep course set up by the school’s counseling department this year.The report also recommended making the PSAT, the practice SAT, mandatory for sophomores. The PSAT costs around $8 per student, or around $1,000 per year.The Aspen School District board agreed to discuss the task force’s recommendations at the May 2 public board meeting.”As a board we need to take a look at this and decide what we want to do at a board level and what we want to leave to our administrators,” board President Fred Peirce said.The task force’s report will soon be available on the Aspen School District’s website.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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