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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

What Predicts Success in College — and Life?

Did You Catch the New Report about the Shift Away from College Tests?

Here is the Times article, www.nytimes.com/2008/09/22/education/22admissions.html As the piece explained, a panel headed by the Harvard admissions director has suggested that in determining who is a good candidate, schools shift away from tests such as the SAT or ACT and instead look at specific courses whose content links to college work, and life skills. The problem, of course, is that the importance given to the tests has spawned the entire test-prep industry, as well as the high school test focus frenzy. So students, teachers, parents are all intent on getting those numbers up, but the numbers may not predict anything at all about how the student will do after high school. 

If this report has an impact on high schools, that should be very good news for those of us who advocate for nonfiction, for content, for thinking. Becuase the skills that we keep stressing — having ideas, researching them, testing them, formulating them, and sharing them — are college level skills. The more high schools realize that information, and how to acquire it, probe it, test it, challenge it, and reformulate it, is crucial, the better. I have no doubt that the test prep apparatus will find a way to adjust. I have no illusions that we will enter educational heaven. But if this report heralds a basic shift in how high schools orient their teaching, we have a perfect opportunity. Read, think, write would replace cram, strategize, and practice as the key steps on the way to improving your application.