Johns Hopkins Gazette: February 12, 1996

Pilot Program Is Result Of New Partnership
Hopkins Institute, Sylvan To Test Computerized SAT

Chris Rowett
Homewood News and Information

     No. 2 pencils may soon become obsolete for students taking
the SAT test.

     Under a pilot program developed in part by the Hopkins
Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth, Sylvan Learning
Centers Inc. will administer a computerized version of the
standard college admission test to seventh-grade students
applying to the institute's Talent Search program.

     The results of the test will not be used for college
admission purposes. Instead, the College Board will use the test
as a sort of trial run for the computerized version of the exam,
now known as the SAT I: Reasoning Test. 

     "Putting the nation's largest college admission test on
computer is not a simple matter," said Donald Stewart, president
of the College Board. "Before we can offer such a test to the
broad student population, we need results from a variety of
testing situations."

     As the first students to take the test on computer, Talent
Search hopefuls will not have the pressure of achieving high
scores in order to get into the colleges of their choice.

     "The stakes are clearly of a different nature," IAAY
executive director William Durden said of the pilot test. "There
is less stress for the students and less stress on the whole

     Students admitted to the Talent Search program are eligible
to attend the IAAY's summer academic programs and activities held
every year at Hopkins. More than 60,000 students worldwide are
expected to participate in the program this year; about 6,000
took part in IAAY summer sessions last year.

     Prospective Talent Search students will begin taking the
test at no cost next month; the College Board will expand its
testing research next year to include other talent search
programs and colleges.

     The pilot testing program is a result of a partnership
between Hopkins and Sylvan, the Columbia-based testing service   
for students in kindergarten through the adult level. In addition
to the pilot SAT program, Hopkins and Sylvan will develop
specially designed math and language arts curricula for high
achievers in middle school grades. 

     A third component of the partnership will be the use of a
series of tests developed to evaluate students' spatial
abilities, or the skills to visualize changes in illustrated
forms and recognize the relationship among arranged objects and
shapes. The tests, developed by IAAY researcher Heinrich Stumpf,
may be used as indicators of scientific promise or heightened
skills of visual perception.

     "This adds yet another dimension to the testing that is
available," Durden said.

     By working with Sylvan and its more than 600 learning
centers throughout North America, the IAAY will significantly
expand the availability of its educational services.

     "We don't have the resources already established to offer
programs and assessment services worldwide," Durden said. "This
partnership allows us to increase our infrastructure of
delivering services to young people.

     "This is also our way of trying to maintain a robust and
dynamic organization in the face of challenge," he added.
Specific terms of the agreement will be determined later this

     Kicking off the alliance with the SAT test pilot program was
"a natural progression," Durden said.

     "[The pilot test] gives us, the College Board and the
Educational Testing Service the opportunity to see how effective
computerized testing is," Durden said "If that proves effective,
it will give us the opportunity to be at the ground floor of
positioning the SAT in a computerized format for the entire

     There are a few differences in the two versions of the test,
which evaluates verbal and mathematical skills. The paper and
pencil SAT takes about three and a half hours, while the time
allotted for the computerized version is two and a half hours,
including a tutorial. 

     The primary differences, as explained in an information
packet provided to the 3,000 students expected to take the test,
are related to the methods of answering questions. A minimum
number of questions must be answered before a score can be
calculated, and students cannot omit, or pass, any questions or
return to a question after answering it. They will, however, be
given the opportunity to change an answer before moving on.

     Additionally, testing tools and functions such as erase are
available as "Help icons" on the testing screen, and an automatic
timer will signal when five minutes of allotted testing time

     "Most kids are computer savvy," said Linda Barnett, director
of the talent search for IAAY. "They've used computers and are
comfortable with them."

     Orientation tapes are also available.

     "Students will not take this blindly," she said.

     About 1.8 million students take the SAT each year; Durden
said instant scoring and the increased accessibility are just two
advantages of the computerized test.

     Additionally, "some students may find it easier to look at
one question at a time, instead of going from a test booklet back
to the test," Barnett said.

     Other benefits, Durden noted, are unknown.

     "The fact is, we don't know all of the educational
advantages of technology," he said. "With this test, we can start
evaluating that."

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