The HSPT shouldn’t decide your high school career – or your college success

It’s ridiculous that I’m not allowed to take a more advanced math class because the HSPT determined 4 years ago that it would be too difficult for me to handle.


by Torie Richardson, Editor-in-Chief

If I had known in 8th grade how much of an impact one thick test booklet would have had on my high school career, I would have begged, pleaded and sobbed to retake it.

If I would have known that I was, in fact, much better at math than the High School Placement Test portrayed me to be, I would have fought for myself, instead of simply being happy to have been accepted into STA.

Even though I love this college-prep school, if I would have known that STA was going to try to hold me back from being as completely successful as an engineer as possible, I would have been as outraged as I am now.

I am completely positive that I am not as well prepared for college math as I could be – and for a school that tries to make sure each individual student is as well-prepared as possible, STA sure does put a lot of weight on how well nervous 8th graders perform on a test.

Picture me in 8th grade.

My shaky right hand is gripping a yellow number 2 pencil and my sweaty left hand is holding down a test. I glance at the clock high up on the wall to my right, hoping I’m not wasting too much time by doing so. I just spent five minutes scribbling and erasing my method to find answers to one math problem – and I didn’t even do it right.

Yet, it seems so simple. Didn’t we learn how to do this type of problem at my grade school? I picture a tall, large man writing something on the board in chalk. He’s’ trying to teach me how to do it, but he skips over the part I need to know.

I bet I could learn how to do this test problem in 30 seconds if someone taught me the basic rule.

The next two problems, too.

Do the other girls know how to do these problems?

I’m smart enough to do them too.



But then the proctor standing at the front of the room says “pencils down” and I try not to think about whether that section just ruined my chances of getting into my mother’s alma mater, even though I have at least ten problems left.

When I get my results back weeks later, I’m just happy to be in the regular math class.

But Algebra I feels like review for the first week. And then the first month. And then the first semester.

The next year, Geometry feels easy too.

“Can I move up?”  I ask my teacher this as soon as I realize that I’ll find it just as easy as last year’s math class.

“The other class has learned more material than you by now. “

Why didn’t anyone tell me that last year?

Pre-calculus feels easy.

Can I move up?

“We’re just reviewing for a little while. It’ll get harder.”

It does.

But it still comes easily.

And since I’m taking regular math classes, I have to take regular science classes too.

I wish they were more challenging.

You know what will be challenging?

College calculus. And ergonomics. And college in general.

You know what probably won’t come easily?

Learning how to be an engineer.

While the advanced math track becomes more advanced, the girls in the general classes fall behind them more and more until the knowledge gap between them seems insurmountable.

Why does STA let this happen?

Why do girls who love math, and are actually quite good at it, have to sit in classes they find fairly simple while their peers sit in more suitable classes just because they did better on one test that, at this point, was taken four years ago?

It’s completely ridiculous.

There are many wonderful things about STA that I will remember forever with fondness, but when I’m doing incredibly difficult math in college and as an engineer, I’ll have unnecessary struggles – not because my 8th grade self got nervous while trying to complete a test, but because STA didn’t give her a chance.