Assignment for Problem Analysis – Scenario A 1
Dumont High School is a suburban entity that educates over 850 students from grades
9-12. While our state testing results are good and out graduation rate is near 99%, we have
found that our students’ SAT scores averages have been dropping in the last three years.
This fact has caused us to look at what the possible problems might be within our school
culture or our curricula. We have determined that there are three primary problems that lead
to the low, and falling, average SAT scores.
Our students are currently offered an SAT preparation cluster during a school year.
The SAT Math preparation class runs in the first semester of the school year and the SAT
Verbal class runs in the second semester. A different teacher teaches each section. Students
are given the Barron’s SAT preparation book as a text and test taking “skills” are taught by
the teacher and then practiced by the student. The skills reviewed in the course are content
based; the curricula for both sections is based on the idea that if a student knows more about
a particular subject, then they should do well on a test that measures knowledge. However,
the SAT test is not a knowledge (content) based test, but rather a skills and reasoning based
exam that test your application of knowledge.
Dumont’s grade ten and eleven Language Arts and Math curricula do not include
SAT test taking skills or SAT base-knowledge units. These curricula should include units
that reinforce the basic knowledge needed to perform well on the SAT. The Language Arts
and Math department supervisors have addressed this issue with the district’s Director of
Curriculum and Instruction. They have requested that their teachers receive professional
development in preparing students for the SAT. They argue that the same request was made
when New Jersey implemented the HSPA and that request was granted. Clearly, they argue,
Dumont High School students perform well on the state exam due largely to the faculty’s
Assignment for Problem Analysis – Scenario A 2
ability to teach the skills needed to perform well on that exam. In fact, test taking strategies
and required skills have been woven into the curricula. Would not the same approach be
helpful in attempting to improve the students’ SAT averages? These arguments have been
met with silence and indifference.
Lastly, Dumont is a town comprised mostly of middle and lower-middle class
families. Many of our students (over 40%) opt to attend local community colleges after
graduation from high school. This is due, in part, to the economics of funding a college
education. Yet, we have also found that many of these same students did apply to four-year
colleges and universities but were rejected due to their low SAT scores. When a recent
questionnaire that probed the students’ attitudes toward the importance of the SAT exam and
their likeliness to attend SAT preparation courses other than the one offered at Dumont High
School was given to the current junior class, the results showed that nearly 50% of our
students said that the SAT was not as important as their final grade-point average. The
survey also revealed that only 5% of our juniors plan to take advantage of local area SAT
preparation programs (i.e. Kaplan, The Princeton Review).
After determining our problems, some possible solutions were discussed. Man of us
agreed that the SAT preparation class offered through our school needed revision and a new
approach. Our students may have content knowledge, but they lack the application of that
knowledge. To review and revise the SAT Preparation Class curricula would cost the district
money. We already operate under limited funds and no new monies for the cost of
curriculum revision would be available.
Another possible solution would be for the administrative team to again approach the
Director of Curriculum and Instruction and seek funding for revising the current grades ten
Assignment for Problem Analysis – Scenario A 3
and eleven Language Arts and Math curricula to include SAT skills preparation. This would
also require the district to fund a professional development program for our eighteen teachers
in both departments. Again, funding is an issue in Dumont.
The preferred solution came from the students. On several surveys that we received
from our junior students, a comment was made to offer our professional SAT preparation
class during the school day, in the school building. Some of the students informed us that the
reason they do not pursue outside SAT preparation programs is because our students would
rather stay in our building and participate in clubs, athletics, and social programming offered.
It is true that Dumont High School has a high extra-curricular participation rate (over 75%)
and many of our students remain in the building well after school hours. These students said
that the time it would take to get to the SAT program facility would be too great for them and
their families. With this understanding, we again surveyed the students – this time the
sophomores who would be taking the SAT in the coming year.
These survey results revealed that over 50 of our 123 sophomores would like to take a
professional SAT course if it were offered during school hours. Dumont High School has a
common lunch hour; everyone in the building is “off” for one hour each day. Utilization of
this time slot would be optimal for us to offer an SAT course for our students. This
professional course could also serve as a means to provide professional development for our
Language Arts and Math teachers; they could sit in on sessions and learn test-taking
strategies that they could incorporate into the SAT preparation class that they already teach.
Furthermore, SAT preparation programs are more likely to offer their courses in this type of
setting at a reduced rate. In fact, one SAT preparation program (The A List) did notify us that
they would gladly offer their program to our students at a 50% discount. They also agreed to
Assignment for Problem Analysis – Scenario A 4
allow some of our faculty members to sit in review sessions with our students.