Public Service Announcement: seniors must attend school during PSAT testing

In previous years when sophomores and juniors were scheduled to take the PSAT, seniors managed to escape the testing through late arrival and otherwise normal class schedules.

Not this year. While other grades continue taking the PSAT (or practice STAAR, in the freshmen’s case), seniors will be taking a mandatory Texas Success Initiative assessment, or TSI test.

“It is a program that determines the appropriate level of college coursework for an incoming student,” testing coordinator Karen Guenther said.

As a decision made by downtown Central Services, the TSI gives both teachers and students the ability to measure “college readiness,” or how well a student can take on college-level courses. In doing so, the goal is to increase the level of seniors who are prepared to go off to college before they graduate.

“We are offering it to seniors for free, so they don’t have to pay for it,” Mrs. Guenther said. “If we start now, they’ll have opportunity to retest if they need to.”

In addition to being free, the TSI allows students who initially thought they wouldn’t perform well in college to reconsider. Depending on how they score, students may come to the realization that going to university would be easier than they thought.

There are three portions to the untimed test: mathematics, reading, and writing. Those who are already taking dual-credit classes are familiar with the TSI; students must pass the tests before having the ability to enroll in college-level courses.

Students who already took the TSI and passed are exempt from taking it again. Other senior exemptions rely on ACT and SAT scores. To be exempt from the reading/writing portions, a student must have scored a 23 on their ACT with at least a 19 in reading/writing. Similarly, to be exempt from mathematics, they must have at least a 23 on the ACT with at least a 19 in math.

For SAT takers to be exempt, they must score at least a 480 in Evidence-Based Reading & Writing and at least 530 in Math (a cumulative score of 1010).

“Those [exempt] students will come to the Renaissance Hall to work with the counselors for the FAFSA, getting college applications … all that good stuff,” Mrs. Guenther said.

The counselors are aiming to have 100 percent of all seniors complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, even if they don’t think they’ll be going to college. This application determines a student’s eligibility for college financial aid.  

“Students who are on free-reduced lunch almost automatically get $6,095 in tuition money,” Mrs. Guenther said, as an example of ways students can attend college in spite of financial troubles.

Though juniors won’t be taking the TSI at the same time as seniors, their time will come. The juniors will take the TSI this spring as an effort to deem more students college ready before they become seniors. Counselors hope to have a bigger group of college-bound students to work with next year; those who aren’t ready by this time next year will take the TSI again.

All this testing will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 10. As a recap, freshmen will be taking a practice STAAR test, juniors and sophomores will be taking the PSAT, and the majority of seniors will be taking the TSI. Those who are exempt are to go to the Renaissance Hall to work on the FAFSA with counselors.

Though the time for seniors avoiding major tests as an upperclassmen luxury is over, TSI testing and college preparation is meant to help the class, not hurt them.