The College Board's 'ReadiStep' Test for 8th Graders

Two weeks ago, the College Board unveiled a new "low stakes" (a phrase used in testing circles that means the results don't affect student placement or admissions) test called "ReadiStep."  ReadiStep (details can be found at will be designed to give "early feedback to help 8th grade students identify the skills they need to be college ready. The test, according to the College Board, will align with "the English Language Arts and Mathematics College Board Standards for College Success" and will have "three multiple-choice sections-reading, writing and mathematics."  The two-hour long test will debut in fall 2009. (ReadiStep Quick Reference from the College Board)

The College Board contends, in its 22 October 2008 press release, that ReadiStep is, "designed to align with the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT exams to help create a complementary suite of skills assessing tests. ReadiStep assesses the same skills as the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT at grade appropriate level." Yes, you read that correctly; your critical reading skills are still intact: the SAT Reasoning Test, the PSAT, and soon, ReadiStep, will be a suite of tests used to assess student skills.  Somehow, almost miraculously, the College Board has transformed the SAT and PSAT, tests that measure reasoning and logic, into "a series of tests" measuring specific student skills. When did this happen?

Yet, it gets even stranger. When Lee Jones, the Senior VP for college readiness at the College Board, unveiled ReadiStep, reporters queried Jones and others about whether American schools really 'needed another test?' They responded by saying that 'school leaders had been asking the College Board to create this test." Asked for the names of these school leaders, "the College Board declined to release any."  ("College Board Unveils Test for 8th Graders", 23 October 2008,, by Scott Jaschik). Additionally, "the College Board declined to release sample questions." (Ibid. all likelihood, the reason the College Board came up empty with the names of school leaders clamoring for ReadiStep is because this very test, which the College Board is describing, has been in existence for over 17 years; it's name is EXPLORE, and it is a test designed by the ACT, to measure specific skill levels in math, English, science, and reading for 8th and 9th graders. You can view exactly which skills are measured by EXPLORE on page 7 of the document at: Skills that are to be mastered throughout high school, skills essential to a student's success in college, are also measured by PLAN, which can be taken either sophomore or junior year, and the ACT, which is usually taken junior or senior year.  In short, a suite of skill assessment tests that measures college readiness (and, by the way, is taken by every junior in Colorado, Illinois, and over 50% of graduating high school students in 23 other states) is available now, with a solid track record. Last year over 980,000 students in the 8th or 9th grade took EXPLORE.

Will another test be beneficial to future 8th and 9th grade students? There appear to be already enough standardized tests for these grades. In California there is the STAR Indicator tests (also known as the California Standards Tests--CST) in English Language Arts (ELA), math, science, history and social science. Further, during early high school, students must take the CAHSEE to prove competency in Math and ELA.  In addition, on the "high stakes" test front, an 8th grader wishing to attend a private school will take either the ISEE or the SSAT. For parochial school, she'll take either the COOP or the HSPT.  Of course, as already noted, there are already EXPLORE, PLAN, ACT, PSAT, and the august SAT (let alone the SAT Subject tests, the AP tests and IB tests).  It's hard to imagine another test needed to validate what's already being learned.

As Jesse Mermell, executive director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, opines, ReadiStep is "a cynical marketing ploy designed to enhance test-maker revenues... [and] to lock 8th graders into the SAT series of exams before they can consider the increasingly popular alternative of the ACT or test-optional admissions." ( October 23rd)  Ms. Mermell makes some persuasive points. Be ready for a test on this tomorrow.