Hitting the College Exams Students Increasingly Taking More Chances

Article excerpt

The stress of taking a national college entrance exam has become

routine to Natalle Logan, a senior at Stanton College

Preparatory School.

By the time she graduates this year, Logan expects to have

taken the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and American College

Testing Assessment (ACT) nearly 10 times.

The 17-year-old already has been accepted at her favorite

colleges, but she continues to compete for scholarship money. If

she can raise her scores with another few rounds of testing, so

be it.

"I don't test very well," she said. "I just think it's kind of

unfair to have that as your [evaluation]."

Her endurance is not unusual.

Little more than a decade ago, most college-bound students in

Jacksonville took the SAT two or three times. Today, prospective

undergraduates increasingly take a round or two of both national

tests, a recognition that they measure different skills.

The number of Jacksonville high school seniors taking the SAT

increased 6 percent from 1995 to 1997, from 2,147 to 2,275,

while the number taking the ACT climbed 16 percent, from 1,417

to 1,651.

The gains were even more substantial among African-American

students.

The number of African-American seniors who took the ACT rose

from 427 to 505 over the two years, an 18 percent increase. The

number of students taking the SAT jumped from 434 to 591, a 36

percent gain.

The purpose of both exams is to assess the ability of high

school students to perform in college, but whether they

adequately do so is the subject of national debate.

The SAT has come under scrutiny for underestimating the

potential of poor students, as well as African-Americans,

Hispanics and women.

Some African-American students, like Logan, say they have heard

they should take the ACT because they can achieve a higher

score. But the benefit appears to be a perceived one.

As a whole, African-American students in Jacksonville appear to

do about the same on the two tests, said Laurel Anderson,

director of guidance services for the Duval County schools.

For the record, the school system encourages all high school

students to take both tests. But guidance counselors undoubtedly

follow the national media, which has focused criticism on the

SAT more so than the ACT, Anderson said.

The SAT, which remains the dominant test in Jacksonville,

Florida and the nation, measures critical thinking, reasoning

and other skills. Although it is no longer called an aptitude

test, it does not specifically cover high school subject matter.

By comparison, the ACT closely mirrors curriculum. …