PSAT Testing a Waste of Money? Hardly.

The state of Oregon has allocated money to fund the PSAT for every sophomore in the state. This is a bold move in dire economic times like these. Families are hard-pressed for cash these days and would be reluctant to pony up the onerous fees this test demands — just for a chance to try out a “baby” version of the SAT.

The test costs students a whopping $13.00. Think what families could do with the savings now that the state has stepped in to pay. That test fee represents one of the following: 2.5 lattes at Starbucks, two movie tickets, 4 movie rentals, a small pizza (or a large take-and-bake), 5 gallons of gas, a three-pack of undershirts, 5 school lunches, 12 days of a cell phone subscription, or three gallons of milk and a dozen eggs. The sacrifice to pay for this test simply does not equate with the test’s value, so fortunately the state has stepped in, fulfilled its primary function, and is paying for the state’s sophomores to take this fine exam.

The state says that the test can help predict college success AND can help schools guide bright students into advanced placement classes and honors courses.

There are only a couple problems with that, though. First, and foremost, sophomores don’t have to take the test. Far be it for the department of education to require something, so students may take, or not take, the test based on a whim and a whistle. This is good. Forcing students to do something they don’t want to do (like wake up early) can lead to disastrous results.

Secondly, and perhaps just as important, many districts are reducing and/or eliminating the very honors and AP classes the state says students might be encouraged to take. Many districts in Oregon have wisely taken measures to reduce or eliminate these so-called “honors” classes, which truly only serve to segregate the best students from the rest. This is wrong. How can poor students be encouraged if they are only in classes with other poor students? How can teachers get the valuable help they need by having students teach other students if the brightest students are in some other class? How can we eliminate the hurt feelings of students who don’t “make the cut” into these elitist classes? We can’t do any of these things without the wholesale elimination of these type of segregationist classes. Anyone who has ever taught school knows it as easy to teach calculus to top students as it is to teach poorer students the multiplication tables — even at the same time in the same room!

So, kudos to the Oregon Department of Education for doing the right thing to ensure that every sophomore, regardless of need, can take this test if they want to for FREE and then use the results to help guide their future educational plans.