Montgomery Village News

Montgomery Village News

August 25, 2017 | Montgomery Village News

For those of us lucky enough to go college the experience of taking a standardized test such as the SAT or ACT is probably a pretty scary memory. So much hinges on student performance; and in many cases, performance is a critical factor in the award of merit-based aid and scholarships.

Teaching students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds how to take standardized tests is an important component of the CollegeTracks college access program at Watkins Mill High School.

To meet this need, the CollegeTracks staff looks within the community for suitable volunteers to oversee test preparation sessions. Currently, the organization is seeking ACT tutors who can work with a small group of students once a week during lunch or afterschool for 8 to 12 weeks during the fall and spring semesters.

“The ACT can be very intimidating for students,” says Gina Maloney, who has helped with test preparation at the CollegeTracks program at Wheaton and Watkins Mill high schools for many years. “My goal is to demystify the test so each student can do his or her best. It’s so rewarding to be a small part of the CollegeTracks process that helps open doors for young people.”

It might surprise you who CollegeTracks favors in this role.  The program isn’t looking for those who show an aptitude for test-taking or subject matter expertise. The ideal candidate is someone who is enthusiastic and enjoys working with young people in a group setting, providing motivation, and helping students master new material. Test prep volunteers prepare 45-60 minute lessons in a range of subjects such as English, math and reading that incorporate test-taking strategies, administration of practice tests and a healthy dose of encouragement.

Careful training is provided by CollegeTracks, with tutors working under the close supervision of CollegeTracks staff and collaboratively with other test prep volunteers.

“For many volunteers, test prep is an exciting way to help CollegeTracks students,” says Volunteer Manager Michele Parsonnet. “The work is straightforward and the goals are clear. Without test prep coaches, many of students would go into the ACT or SAT cold and the results would have a negative impact on their admission to college.”

"ACT tutors have contributed a tremendous amount of time preparing lesson plans, conducting weekly tutoring sessions, scoring assignments, responding to students’ questions as they conduct independent study at home, and providing snacks,” says Lindsey Barclay, program director at Watkins Mill High School.  “With prep, students have the opportunity to raise their scores, increasing their college and financial aid options.  Unlike some other components of a college application, test scores can change dramatically. Test prep increases options."