Hey there! How’s it going?
Whether you are on your Spring Break, a Corona Break, or just trying to find some normal again during a chaotic time, I hope this finds you healthy and secure.
Today I want to steer very, very clear of current events and talk a little about the future. Specifically, that time that will come all too soon for many of our students: college entrance exams. That’s always a heavy topic, with lots of pressure, right? And it seems like it’s only gotten worse recently, especially as it pertains to SAT math.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve heard several people start to question how well Saxon will prepare their kids for college entrance exams. This was not a sentiment you’d have heard just a decade ago. But overnight, it seems, some doubt appeared. There were suddenly people who had been devoted Saxon users who were suddenly jumping ship to go to other curriculums. So, what gives? Why the change?
Well, in 2015 a revamp of the Math portion of the SAT meant a lot of things changed. Mind you, colleges weren’t necessarily changing what they were teaching. But the focus of the test did change. And that sent some people scrambling to change along with it.
As the college entrance cheating scandal has shown us, acceptance into certain schools is viewed by some people as a pinnacle achievement in a young person’s life. So of course with the change in the math portion of the test, people started to question what their kids or students needed to do to score well on the test. In fact, at least one entire curriculum has been developed specifically to achieve success on the test. It already has a reputation for producing excellent results on the SAT that, in many cases, I’m sure it delivers on.
But here’s the deal:
If you use a curriculum that has been written specifically for the current SAT then you’ll probably have a student who does well on the test. But will they be good at math? Will they be confident in math? We’ve all heard our adult friends say “I did really well on tests in school, but I forgot everything afterward.” Perhaps we have even said that ourselves. So we have to ask, is that what we want for our kids, too?
I don’t want that. John Saxon didn’t want that. He wanted to prepare students to know math and understand math and apply math well in real-world situations for their entire lives. That’s why Saxon does all those quirky things like Mental Math, 30 Mixed Practice problems, and so on.
Do all those changes on the test, then, mean your child won’t do well on the SAT if you continue to use Saxon? Absolutely not. If you want a student who is both excellent at math AND who does well on the SAT, it may simply mean they need to spend a bit of time doing some test prep. And I do mean just a bit.
Here’s how it works:
Keep in mind that test prep doesn’t mean learning new material. It means getting familiar with how the test words questions, and what they are looking for in the answers. To that end, test prep is going to be important to some extent regardless of the curriculum.
What might preparation look like? For most students, it’s quite simple. And for almost everyone, it certainly does NOT have to mean an expensive and time-consuming test preparation course.
The College Board itself has made available–for free–what it calls the best preparation for its tests. You can get started here.
The best part? Even the College Board itself doesn’t recommend spending a ton of time outside your regular curriculum. They recommend 20 hours of prep, tops. Do the division (I know you can!): That’s 1 hour a day for 4 weeks, or 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks prior to the test.
Now, if you are old-school and like test prep books, that’s fine. Here’s a solid review of what’s out there if you’re interested.
So what does all this mean? It means that if your child is excelling at Saxon, you don’t need to shift gears to have a student who does well on this test. It means that you can continue with what’s working for your student (and remember you have my full support throughout!). It means that in this case, you CAN have it all–an excellent math student who has the opportunity to shine on their college readiness exams. That’s my goal for your students, and I truly believe it’s a route that will serve them well now, in their college preparations, and throughout their life.