kitchen table math, the sequel: perfect SAT scores

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

perfect SAT scores

A few years ago I read a book about kids who scored perfect 1600s on the SAT. The main feature of perfect-scoring kids that distinguished them from everyone else was the amount of reading they did --  more importantly, the amount of assigned reading:
[S]tudents who ace the SAT read an average of fourteen hours a week. Average score students, on the other hand, read only eight hours a week—an immense drop-off. The biggest difference, however, was found in the amount of time students spent reading for school. Average score students spent four hours a week reading literature, textbooks, and other assigned reading for school. Perfect score students put in nine hours a week for school-assigned reading, more than double the amount of time.


What do 1600 students read for fun?...The book most frequently mentioned—by a total of 6 percent of perfect score students—was Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

The Perfect 1600 Score: The 7 Secrets of Acing the SAT
Tom Fischgrund

bonus factoid: One of my friend's children had something very close to a perfect score on the new 3-section SAT. (I don't know what her other child scored, but it had to be quite high as well.)

No SAT prep class & no tutor.

Just 13 years of Catholic schools. perfectscore assignedreading


mhayhurs said...

Hmm, so are we suggesting that private schools do indeed offer a better education for our children than public school education? I am from Akron, OH, and the private schools in my area are better known for their athletic programs than their academics (although I believe they are still pretty high). What makes a private school education more efficient that a public school one?

cranberry said...

Many (most?) private schools require their students to play sports. They don't do p.e., they do sports. Thus, they can field many more teams than the public schools. To a public school parent, this can look like a school which is focussed on sports, not academics. It's a different culture, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the schools don't have good academics.

mhayhurs said...

Thank you, I was unaware that private schools lack a physical education curriculum. As a PE major myself, I am interest/concerned with why this is so. Are we assuming that by forcing every student to partake in a sport, that we cover every standard and benchmark put forth by the state DOE? The purpose of physical education is to offer a broad spectrum of games and bodily movements to students, but having them partake in a sport does not prove their ability to either of these (a child who chooses golf may not be able to run a mile, or develop appropriate catching/throwing skills, etc). I guess I am just not understanding how we allow such private schools to completely eliminate the important of physical education in our schools.

Cranberry said...

I have children in both public and private schools. The private school's sports curriculum is much healthier than the public, in my opinion. The students play sports, and move, for a full hour, four days a week. The school chooses aerobically intensive sports, soccer, basketball, skating, etc. There are no obese kids in that school, although they do accept children who are chubby. Regular vigorous exercise does wonders for fitness. My son's sports clothes come home sweaty.

In contrast, the public schools offer 45 minutes of sports twice a week. There is a great deal of lecture about different sports, but little opportunity to play. The school interprets state requirements in such a way that the children are graded heavily on their knowledge of the rules of a sport, so they spend a fair amount of time filling out paper and pencil quizzes.

One of the biggest elements in learning a sport is time to practice that sport. The students in private schools get that time. In public schools, you really only get that time if your parents sign you up for club sports outside of school.

Both schools, the public and the private, have equivalent campuses. The playing fields on the private school's campus get much more use during the school day.

mhayhurs said...

I agree. Children learn best through experience and unless we allow them to experience these games by allowing them to actually play the games, we are robbing them of valuable physical activity time. I am excited to hear about your son's PE experiences, for that is how all PE classes should be. I agree that too much time is placed on lecture in a PHYSICAL education classroom, and I remember from my past experiences about watching videos and taking quizzes when we should have been out there moving around. It is unfortunate that public schools lack the necessary time for physical activity (45 mins twice a week is nowhere near enough) and without change, the obese population of this country will never decrease.

Anonymous said...

"Thank you, I was unaware that private schools lack a physical education curriculum."

I suspect that it depends on the private school.

I attended a private Jesuit-run high school. We were required to take PE freshman year, but not after that.

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

"I guess I am just not understanding how we allow such private schools to completely eliminate the important of physical education in our schools."

We allow this because the private schools can, largely, do what they want. Many (most? all?) states have the notion that parents are capable of selecting a school for their children (provided that the parent pays for this, of course). If the school emphasizes some things and eliminates others, this is considered the parent's decision.

-Mark Roulo

mhayhurs said...

An interesting point.... We say that as the parents know the curriculum before sending their child to a private school, and as long as they are ok with it, go ahead and pay for their child to go. Now, because the parent's are paying for the child's education, should they have any say in the curriculum (persay a board of parents and teachers working together to develop a curriculum)? Just a thought...

Cranberry said...

Independent schools have a Board of Trustees, largely populated by parents. They set policy, the budget, and hire the head. They are not in charge of curriculum, but if they felt that the school's welfare was endangered by the curriculum, a wise head would listen to the board.

Having looked at a number of private schools for our children, the model of frequent physical activity is very popular. For most middle and upper class parents, that is a no-brainer, and a definite draw. I don't know anything about the parochial side of the world.

Anonymous said...

"Now, because the parent's are paying for the child's education, should they have any say in the curriculum?"

That would depend on the individual private school, would it not? The school could have a "board of parents and teachers working together." Or could say, "This is what we do. Take it if you like it, if not feel free to go somewhere else."

*Selecting* a private school is having a say in the curriculum for the individual child, if only by picking a curriculum that the parent wants (or, alternately, avoiding those that the parent does not want).

-Mark Roulo

SteveH said...

"What makes a private school education more efficient that a public school one?"

The usual response is that the kids are "pre-selected". This doesn't necessarily mean more efficient. In some cases, it's more about whether you can afford it or not.

The private K-8 school my son went to gives an entrance exam to kids who are applying. Right. That's only meaningful if demand exceeds supply, a condition the school never met.

The school didn't worry about PE too much because they had mandatory after-school sports. It had to be mandatory because they would never have enough kids to field a team. The same applied to band and chorus. I remember one concert and thinking that many chorus members had the sourest looks on their faces. There are advantages to larger schools.

As for the curriculum, several other parents and I tried our best to get rid of Everyday Math. "Everyday Math works best for our mix of kids.", was the response. They couldn't see any issues because all of their students go on to tony prep schools and academies. However, if members of the Board of Trustees wanted Singapore Math, they would have Singapore Math.

Anonymous said...

To continue the PE/sports discussion, there are plenty of kids who are full-time elite athletes. A gymnast or swimmer who trains 3-5 hours a day does not need PE, nor does the elite wrestler, soccer player, lacrosse player or tennis player. Those kids also get lots of coaching on nutrition, rest, injuries and more. I can accept a first aid/CPR requirement, which can be done in one semester, but not more. Just because something - exercise - is a good thing doesn't mean that it has to be done by the schools.

Catherine Johnson said...

Mark - I didn't know you went to a Jesuit high school!

Catherine Johnson said...

Our son is now in a Jesuit high school for a number of reasons, the main one being that his new school offers direct instruction in the liberal arts disciplines while our well-funded public school is committed to a constructivist philosophy of education that rejects the disciplines in favor of differentiated instruction, interdisciplinary classes, student construction of knowledge, and "learning stations" in high school classes.

In short: we've got high school freshmen making posters in Honors English.

Catherine Johnson said...

UPDATE: Chris ended up with an 800 on SAT verbal after 3 years in his Jesuit High School, where he did a **huge** amount of very high level reading, most of it directly overseen by his teachers.

He didn't do well in math, and his high school didn't make up for any of the math deficits he came into the school with.

We're sorry about that, but we are very keen on the school.

Catherine Johnson said...

No tutoring on the verbal section; that 800 was him & his school.

He did need tutoring on the Grammar & writing section. He got a 730, with an 11 on the essay (he needed tutoring more for the grammar section than for writing, I think).

He and I spent a year, off and on, working on SAT math, which raised his score by 90 points (he says. I remember 70 or 80.)

His Grammar/Writing score went from 660 to 730 with 6 or 8 weeks of once-a-week high-level tutoring.

momof4 said...

I'm with Anonymous on the PE issue. My kids were all serious athletes from by the time they were 7-9 and did not need PE AT ALL. They also would have been miserable in a school which required after-school sports, because it would have put that time off-limits for either homework or club practice. The one-size-fits-all approach does not work for lots of kids.