Will the Revised PSAT & SAT Create More Equality in Testing?
Revisions to the PSAT & SAT, rolling out this month and next spring respectively, are an attempt to negate some of the inequities in standardized testing and level the college admissions playing field. According to the Christan Science Monitor, the SAT is serious about reducing the opportunity gap, and reports that “major changes include more vocabulary in context and a focus on critical thinking: students are asked to analyze texts’ use of evidence, particularly in the optional, but more demanding, essay that replaces the 2005 revamp’s brief, opinion-based essay . . . “
Testing is a subject that evokes a variety of strong reactions. Many educators and parents are uncomfortable that a multi-billion dollar industry determines much about students’ futures while falsely assuming they have equal access to high-quality programs and an abundance of resources. We share the same discomfort and that’s why we strive to bring Great Books, a program proven to increase critical thinking, reading, and comprehension skills, to all students as a part of their curriculum. Disadvantaged students—those living in economically strained communities—are especially deserving of our efforts and we’re proud when Great Books makes a meaningful difference in their academic lives. New results from District of Columbia public schools demonstrate how Great Books programs improve performance in low-proficient and far-below-proficient students, and we’re hopeful such increases will help them when they take possibly life-altering tests such as the SAT.
We’re grateful SAT wants to level the testing playing field, and we look forward to hearing how students and teachers feel about the revised tests. For our part, we’ll continue to advocate that all students deserve access to high-quality, inquiry-based programs like Great Books.
Wish my memories were more specific — it was at least 30 years ago! I do remember how the children ‘s minds [and mine!] really opened up as they realized there was no one “right” answer but many right questions. Our minds learned to examine, imagine, and apply the ideas of a story to our personal lives. I remember meeting with my co-leader to plan and as we discussed the book together we both had many “aha!’ moments. I participate in a book club today and am an avid reader, in part because of that wonderful experience years ago.
Thanks for sharing Jean! Those “aha!” moments are the best, aren’t they? We’ve heard many teachers and students use the same language when describing their time using Junior Great Books—it’s awesome that “aha!” seems to be a universal experience. We’re going to be in touch with you soon so we can send you a book to thank you for sharing your memories. Watch for an email that ends with @greatbooks.org.
your friends at Great Books
When my children were in a parochial grade school, I offered to lead an after-school Junior Great Books Discussion group. I had learned the Great Books Method of discussion as a student teacher and had spent 4 years working my way through law school, where the Socratic Method of teaching neatly mirrors the GBM.
The kids surprised me. They wanted to be there and wanted to learn. It was not merely their parents insisting on their taking this course. We really dug into “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, which I had never read before. Its easily close to twenty years ago since I taught the course, so my memory is a little hazy on details, but the fact that I was able to captivate children of a range of ages, differing skills and different interests remains in my mind as the most important aspect of my season of teaching Great Books Method.
I started an Adult Book Club close to 10 years ago, and was the leader for years (until I just wore out). Our discussions were based on GBM of discussion and we always an in depth discussion. When we started rotating the leadership, we started getting questions like “Who was your favorite character?”…almost made me go back to leading.
Hi Erica! Thank you for sharing your impressive experience and commitment to Great Books. You represent the best of our Great Books community—bringing Junior Great Books to students and later starting a Great Books group. We’re indebted to people like you, and are grateful for your time and support. We’ll be in touch with you soon—please watch from an email that ends with @greatbooks.org.
your friends at Great Books
I am currently working on a Masters of Education in Literacy at Judson University in Elgin, IL. In today’s course, LIT520 Reaching Second Language Readers and Writers, the professor mentioned the Junior Great Books program and how beneficial it would be for educators to get trained. I was so excited to hear another person mention Junior Great Books. During break, I immediately went to your website and came across this post about alumni. I had to share! I have asked colleagues whether they were a part of this program growing up, but much to my dismay no one had participated or knew about Junior Great Books.
I remember in 6th grade at Dearborn Street School in California (LAUSD), I would stay after-school and read and discuss great books in the teacher’s lounge of my school. This was over forty years ago, so the details are long forgotten, but the memory of participating in this reading group has stayed with me. Perhaps this was the impetus for my great love of reading, and the catalyst that launched my teaching career. I will never know; however, the fond memories associated with reading and Junior Great Books remains!!
I am a former student that read Junior Great Books in my GATE class in 5th through 8th grade, over 35 years ago. I am now a 1st grade teacher with a highly gifted student in my class that is reading at a 5th to 6th grade level. I am in search of resources to keep her challenged, and the first books I thought of were the Junior Great Books I remembered digging so deeply into. It was the first time I remember having to really think deeply and analyze a story. I particularly remember reading “To Build a Fire” and being deeply affected by it.