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Writing added to SAT, ACT

While the Hope scholarship is not expected to have any major changes in its requirements at this time, the SAT and ACT are going through significant additions.

Beginning in March, the SAT will require a writing portion as part of the standardized test in addition to math and language, said Mariana Davis, counselor at Bearden High School. The ACT will offer a voluntary writing portion beginning this month. The SAT writing portion will have a multiple choice section and a timed essay.

“It will be interesting to see how the students react, how they do,” Davis said.

“All eleventh-graders write a timed essay as part of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program,” said Ruth Lane, junior guidance counselor at Farragut High School. “They get back their score and some feedback from it. This should help students in Tennessee on the essay portion of the national tests.”

Lane and Davis both agreed the “writing across the curriculum” program initiated in Knox County, in which writing is encouraged in all classes, should also help students prepare for the tests.

FHS English teacher Aleeta Johnson has been retained to grade some of the online SAT essays.

“Adding a writing component to the test gives a more realistic picture of what a student can do,” Johnson said. “Being able to communicate your thoughts is a key component of education. If you can’t communicate what you know, then it’s useless.”

Jill Pittman, a junior at FHS, said, “A writing section on the ACT or SAT is great because not all students excel in subjects like math and science. It will allow more students to express themselves and show what they are really good at doing. I think that overall standardized test scores will improve with the addition of the writing portion.”

Sarah Infante, a freshman at FHS, said, “The new addition may be a good thing. Some people are not good at taking tests. It’s a much more realistic way to assess someone than just merely on a multiple choice test.”

The Hope scholarship, funded by the Tennessee State Lottery, requires a 3.0 high school GPA or a score of 21 on the ACT test.

Brian Noland, associate executive director with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, said the required ACT score did change to 21 from the original 19, but it is not expected to change again at this time.

“Our recommendation is to let the scholarship mature, to get more than one semester under our belts. This past fall was the first year the scholarship was given,” Noland said.

“There may be some small, technical changes made,” he added. “The general assembly may allow weighted grades and take a look at counting advancement placement and honors courses. They may also begin accepting residual ACT tests, which are administered by colleges instead of on a national test day.”

Noland said he didn’t expect the changes in the SAT test to have much effect on the lottery scholarships, of which there were approximately 36,000 in fall 2004 for up to $3,000 per student.

“We’re an ACT state, with eighty-five percent of graduating high school seniors taking the ACT,” he said. “The majority of the schools in our state, including the University of Tennessee, require the ACT. And students can qualify on GPA alone, since we don’t require both the GPA and the ACT.”

Eva Peters, college counselor at FHS, said a new link has been added to the school’s Web site recently that contains all kinds of links to scholarship and college searches as well as SAT and ACT practice tests. Visit and choose college countdown under today’s links.


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