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ACT or SAT Which Test Is BetterAs the new school year approaches, many students are beginning to contemplate a dreaded part of high school: standardized testing. In this article, frequently asked questions about the SAT, ACT, and SAT II’s are answered, such as, “When should I take the SAT/ACT?” and “What SAT II’s should I take?” This article provides advice and answers specific to Scarsdale students.

Although standardized tests can be daunting, with the right guidance and preparation, students can be significantly less stressed and more successful.


How do I decide between the SAT and ACT?

This decision is completely personal. Most students take a diagnostic SAT and ACT a couple of months before they plan on taking the test. Usually, there will be a difference in scores, which will make this choice easier. Stefanie Lob, Partner at Private Prep Westchester, comments, “Private Prep recommends that all of our students take a full-length SAT and a full-length ACT diagnostic test to evaluate and compare the student's performance, and help guide the SAT vs. ACT decision in a diagnostic review. This is a very personal choice and we elicit student feedback, compare data section by section and evaluate other factors, like short-answer accuracy on the math sections of the SAT or timing on the ACT.”

If the diagnostic test isn’t enough, here are the pros and cons of each exam:

More time per question (fewer questions)

(Generally) harder questions
Fewer test-prep resources (this is a newer test than the ACT)
Certain colleges require all scores be sent (e.g. Barnard College, Georgetown University, Cornell University, Syracuse University)

Score deletion
After receiving your score, it is possible to request the deletion of your score. This means that even colleges that require all scores be sent will not see this score
Easier questions
Some schools do not require SAT II’s with this exam

Less time per question
During some months (February and July in 2019), the ACT is not offered in New York. However, sometimes Scarsdale students will chose to take this test in Connecticut or New Jersey instead.

Another factor to consider is that the SAT has two math sections (calculator and non-calculator), whereas the ACT has a science section in lieu of the non-calculator section on the SAT. Depending on your math skills in comparison to your ability to analyze scientific passages and data, this could be important.

If you are still struggling with this decision, a helpful question to ask yourself is: “Do I prefer harder tests with more time, or easier tests with less time?” Oftentimes students with better time-management skills prefer the ACT while more slow-paced and thoughtful students prefer the SAT.

Should I take a test-prep class or get a tutor?

When making this decision, there are two main factors to consider: your schedule and your learning preferences.

If you have a busy junior year in regards to extra curricular activities and/or academic classes, attending a test-prep SAT/ACT class may be difficult. Tutoring sessions are generally more flexible since they can be rescheduled.

If you prefer to learn by discussing concepts with your peers, you may benefit from being in a classroom environment. If you find individual attention to be more beneficial, then tutoring would be the better choice.

When should I take the SAT/ACT?

The SAT is offered in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June. The ACT is offered in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July.

Students who take the test in the fall/winter of their junior years usually do so because they have time during their summers and want to spend the school year focusing on their academic classes. Other students chose to take the ACT/SAT during the spring of their junior years to face the test with the benefit of additional knowledge from junior year.

How many months/years do students need to be tutored for the SAT/ACT? How many times should the exam be taken?

According to Lob, “While every student has their own timeline, most will start their preparations 4 months out of their first exam and will plan to take the exam twice. While some opt to take the exam a third time, others may reach their goals on the first shot.”

What are some local recommendations for test prep?

Tutoring Companies:

Private Prep
Varsity Tutors
Jump Start Tutoring
Huntington Learning Center

JCC (https://jccmw.org/teens/academic-center-college-prep/act-prep/)
CCB School of Westchester (http://westchesterccb.com/2018-summer-act-prep-course/)
For extra practice, Bespoke (https://www.bespokeeducation.com/) offers mock exams.

Are there any new test sections/test changes on either the ACT or SAT that are currently being tested?

The SAT recently underwent major changes. For example, the essay became optional and less of an emphasis was placed on memorizing vocabulary. However, many people are unaware of the small changes being made to the ACT. Here, Lob gives an inside view on these shifts, “Beginning with the December 2016 ACT exam, the math section has increased in difficulty substantially. Students are now asked a variety of high-level topics which can pose a confidence issue. However, the curves are more generous and students are able to answer more questions incorrectly while still achieving the same score. Starting in June 2016, the ACT also eliminated a science experiment, dropping from 7 to 6. Our curriculum team and tutors welcomed this change as students now have fewer experiments to analyze and we have continued teaching the same strategies with a great deal of success. Coming this September, the ACT will start introducing a regular experimental section. More information to come after that is administered this fall.”

Should I Take An SAT II?

In recent years, SAT II’s are becoming less important in the college admissions process. Most colleges do not require SAT II’s at all, and many other colleges will not require SAT II’s if an ACT score is submitted.
However, a number of colleges will require SAT II’s. Take a look at here for a list of colleges that require SAT II’s.

If so, which one?

There are twenty SAT II tests available to students. At Scarsdale, some tests are more popular than others: biology E/M (freshman), chemistry (sophomore), math II (junior), and English literature (junior).

If you are a freshman or sophomore and are not sure where you want to apply yet, it is usually not worth taking an SAT II unless you feel confident in the subject. For instance, if you are in honors biology or chemistry and getting an A- or above, then taking the respective SAT II would be a good idea. Lob concurs, “When speaking to families, we consider what level class the student is taking, how the student is performing in this class and what classes the student may be taking in future years. Typically we suggest exploring the SAT Subject Test if a student is in an honors level class or higher, and will not be continuing on with the subject matter in subsequent years.”

In addition, if you are fluent in a foreign language, SAT II’s are available in Spanish, French, Chinese, Italian, German, Hebrew, Latin, Japanese, and Korean.

Finally, if you are taking AP classes your junior year, taking an SAT II in the same subject is an easy way to kill two birds with one stone. Many students in AT US History taking the AP exam will also take the US History SAT II.

Natalie Isak is a 2018 graduate of Scarsdale High School who is headed to Cornell University.

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SHSPaverCourtyardThe SHS courtyard is lined with pavers enscibed with the names of donors.Now that the Scarsdale Schools Educational Foundation’s (SSEF) first major campaign is complete, will they continue to support the Scarsdale Schools? In September, the foundation will celebrate the opening of the Design Lab and Fitness Center at Scarsdale High School, both built with over $2.25 million in funds that the SSEF raised from the community. Grants from SSEF were used to fund these two projects in combination with an $18.1 million bond to finance extensive capital improvements throughout the Scarsdale Schools. This was the first time in Scarsdale's history that private funds were combined on this scale with public financing to improve the schools.

The capital campaign was the second initiative for SSEF who initially provided $90,000 in grants that were used to build Makerspaces in Scarsdale’s elementary schools, to implement a Gaming and Simulation curriculum at Scarsdale Middle School and to fund a programming and coding project, HackScarsdale, at the High School.

So what’s next for the foundation? We met with the foundation’s Executive Director Steve Seward to learn more about the foundation’s goals for the future.

It turns out that students will benefit immediately from the foundation's grants when they return to school this fall. For the first time, in September 2018, two sections of a new AT class in Entrepreneurship will be offered in the high school Design Lab. The classes will be taught by Lisa Yokana and Brian McDonald, and both sections are already fully subscribed. Funding for curriculum development for the class was provided by the foundation last year in support of a class that served as a prototype for the new courses.

At the elementary schools and the Middle School, Seward said the foundation's Grants Committee is seeking ideas from administrators and teachers for innovative projects that fit the foundation’s overall mission to support programs at all levels of education in existing and new spaces. "We seek to supplement the District budget by providing funds for initiatives that do not fit within the constraints of the District's operating budget," Seward said.

The foundation will continue to look to the District's Center for Innovation for worthy projects. As Seward put it, "we see the Center for Innovation as an ideal incubator for good ideas and new projects. We welcome the opportunity to be the accelerator for those projects district-wide."DesignLabThe new Design Lab at Scarsdale High School

With ever increasing pressure from the state and taxpayers to limit tax increases, funding from the Education Foundation can help to drive innovation and keep the Scarsdale Schools at the forefront of education nationwide.

The Foundation has proven its value to the community and will continue to innovate in the years to come. This summer they welcomed four new board members: Elinor Etkes, Seema Jaggi, Megan Simon and Scott Zemachson.

The entire community is invited to a celebration of the design lab, the fitness center and the paver courtyard at Scarsdale High School on September 27 at 7 pm. Mark your calendar to join the party.

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BOE2018The 2018-19 Board of Education: Left to Right: Bill Natbony, Alison Singer, Nina Cannon, Scott Silberfein, Chris Morin, Pam Fuehrer and Lee MaudeScott Silberfein and Pamela Fuehrer were sworn in as President and Vice President of the Scarsdale School Board at an early morning meeting on Tuesday July 10, and newly elected board member Alison Singer was welcomed to the table.

Silberfein took the leadership position from former President Bill Natbony who has one year remaining on the board and will continue to serve. Silberfein was nominated by Board member Lee Maude who called him a quintessential volunteer and a doer with the intellect to be an outstanding president. Fuehrer was nominated by Board member Nina Cannon who said Fuehrer was a “careful listener, critical thinker and measured speaker who gives “careful thought toward expressing her viewpoints.” She said Fuehrer “will use her experience and approachable nature for using our limited but important role in setting policy for this district.”

Flood in District Offices

Dr. Hagerman reported that a burst pipe had caused a flood in the central district office and said it had been “quite an ordeal.” The staff is sharing offices while the clean up progresses.


The Board had a general discussion about setting goals for the coming year. Board member Chris Morin called for the board to “set more robust goals” and to use board or advisory committees to pursue ambitious goals.” He said, “We should tie our goals together into a vision. We should do more benchmarking.” He said the Board had committed to do more advocacy a year ago but did not follow through.

Nina Cannon said, “I generally feel that the idea of a committee is laudatory, but finding time to meet is a challenge. I don’t know how everyone feels about our ability to schedule regular meetings in addition to all our liaison committees.”

Alison Singer asked the Board to model wellness for the community. She said, “I was surprised that you would sit here for four hours without taking a break. I think the new water cooler is a good step,” and she asked for the Board to take a break every two hours to stand up.

Lee Maude said, “Two years ago we had these portfolio meetings – in retrospect those should have been open to the public. If we do set up board committees, they should be public.”


Bill Natbony called for the Board to do more to engage the public, especially the seniors who represent 50% of the population and bring a lot of professional experience. He suggested they be invited to music and art performances and to participate in after school clubs or activities. He also suggested community coffees to give residents the opportunity to express themselves.

The Board then discussed all the liaison meetings they attend to see if these remained relevant and useful.


Also discussed was the possibility of sharing the content of the letters from the public the Board receives at the Board meetings. Morin suggested that the Board provide a substantive review of the letters that are received. Alison Singer suggested that a board member could provide a summary of the written comments, with a sentence about each and provide an “opportunity for the community to hear them.” She said, “it also makes commenters feel that their letters are being considered.”

Dr. Hagerman asked, “How does this differ from what we do now where we report this in our agenda?” He said, “What if someone says this has a chilling effect and they don’t’ want their opinion shared?

The Board then discussed the possibility of delineating private from public comments and how best to do this. However there appeared to be general agreement that the content of letters sent to the Board should be shared with the community at meetings.

Election Procedure:

Also raised was the issue of changing the law regulating how Board members are elected. Current law calls for Board members to run for particular seats and can be confusing if there are challenges. Rather than selecting the winners based on those who receive the highest number of total votes, winners are selected by seat.

The issue arose in May when Pam Fuehrer ran as an independent candidate when she was not re-nominated by the SBNC. Rather than challenge Alison Singer who was running for Fuehrer’s own seat, Fuehrer chose to challenge Woodrow Crouch who was running for the seat formerly held by Art Rublin. The process was confusing to voters.

Chris Morin said, “I support discussing it and amending it. It is a very confusing policy for voters. “ Singer said, “I think it’s timely to take this up this year. It’s confusing as to why it differs from the Village policy.”

Butler Field and Track Renovations

The Board reviewed and ultimately approved construction of a turf field with EPDM infill and will include a shock pad, replace the goal posts, replace the track and include safety netting at a cost of $1,349,778. With a 20% contingency and administrative fees, the total is estimated at $1,712,869.

The question at the meeting was whether or not to also authorize $271,566 for track and field improvements including the steeple chase which would allow the district to host one day meets and provide an enhanced environment for track and field teams and competition.

These funds would include improvement for the long jump, discus, shot put as well as track surfacing and drainage.

The Board discussed whether or not these should be alternate costs or included as one bid with the field work. Chris Morin said, “I don’t like identifying them as alternates. If these are priorities they are worth doing now. If they are not priorities we should not be looking into doing them. I would like to remove these as alternates and include them as part of the project.”

Nina Cannon said, “if we are going to do the work, we should do it all, and we should do it now. We budgeted $1.9 – if these come in higher, where would these funds come from? Has Maroon and White expressed a desire to be a part of this if we can’t cover it? Given our experience with bidding, are we comfortable with these numbers?”

Assistant Superintendent Mattey responded, saying, “As one base bid, it might come in higher – due to contingencies. If there are overruns, monies from teaching would have to be transferred. By going out for bid in late August, we can try to do the work in the fall, but we are dependent on the temperature.”

Ultimately the Board voted to approve the field work and the track items to bid as alternates.

They also agreed to a resolution to extend the district’s lease for the field, which is owned by Scarsdale Village, to June 30, 2031.

Charitable Gift Reserve

Following in the footsteps of the Village, the Board of Education agreed to establish a Charitable Education Fund to allow residents to remit their school taxes as a charitable donation to the district. Contributions to the Fund may entitle taxpayers a deduction of up to 95% of those payments as a charitable donation write-off, rather than a property tax deduction, which would not be subject to the $10,000 limitation established for SALT. The program is optional.

Administrators cautioned that it is unknown whether the IRS will challenge the practice and advised residents to consult their tax advisors.

They also passed a resolution to authorize the Village of Scarsdale as the “collection officer” for the school district. The District will pay the Village 25% of the 5% fee balance remaining in the Fund for each District tax bill payment processed through the Fund and tax credit, up to a total of $33,525. the District will pay the Village 25% of the 5% fee balance remaining in the Fund for each District tax bill payment processed through the Fund and tax credit, up to a total of $33,525.

The next meeting of the Board of Education will be September 17, 2018

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policeatschoolHow much security is necessary to keep our schools safe? That’s what some parents are debating and was the subject of a recent survey posted online at www.SROSurvey.com. The survey was designed to assess community views on hiring law enforcement officers, i.e. police, to be on site at district schools and residents are welcome to complete it.

As background, the Scarsdale School district has retained the Altaris Consulting Group who has assessed Scarsdale's emergency plans, response times, practices, policies and procedures, and provided an updated emergency management plan. The 2018-19 school budget also includes $250,000 for a district Director of Security, a newly created position in the administration. However some parents feel that these measures alone are not enough and are calling for a police presence in the schools.

What does Scarsdale Police Chief Andrew Matturro think about the idea? Is he in favor of posting police at district schools? And if so, what about religious schools, nursery schools and other facilities where children take classes?

We called Matturro who expressed his concern on the issue and detailed many ongoing initiatives to prepare for emergency situations. However, he believes that the question of a police presence in the schools is one for the district and community to decide.

In Matturro’s view, the School Board, the administration and parents need to determine their comfort level with the current security protocols and with the idea of having armed police at the schools. Do they want security officers or police? And if they want extra security, do they want armed or unarmed guards or retired law enforcement personnel? How many would be enough to secure some of our large and sprawling facilities?

He says that the police are actively training to deal with emergency situations – and if they arise, police are prepared to act. The department works with all the schools and Village organizations to help them design security plans that are appropriate for each building. However Matturro says that he lacks the authority to impose the presence of police in schools. He questions whether this is the most effective solution and also whether residents would favor it.

Furthermore, the current force is not staffed for full-time placement in the schools. There are currently 45 officers employed – and an initiative to guard the schools full time would require additional funding to hire a significant number of patrolmen. This decision would have to be approved by the Village and funded by taxpayers.

So does Matturro favor police in the schools? His response is that it’s up to us to decide.

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FieldRenderingScarsdale10583 received the following correction from Mackenzie Austin of USGreentech regarding our previous article about the properties of coated sand infill that is used in sythetic turf:

Here is what she wrote:

Envirofill 11.“Has a strong odor”
Envirofill is odorless and is also infused with Microban technology which is an antimicrobial that inhibits the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew that can cause odors. We would be happy to send you a sample to “sniff it out” for yourself.

2. “Sand may compact”
While this may be true of angular sands like you find at the beach or a sand box, Envirofill is different. It’s core is made from a unique sand that is mined in Texas and is some of the roundest sand in the world. I have a attached a few close up photos of the product so you can see for yourself.

3. “Coated sand must be taken to a landfill”
As a company, we are dedicated to sustainability and that is one of the main factors we consider when developing and promoting products. Envirofill is able to be used for two turf lifecycles and has a 16 year warranty. We’re confident the durability will last even longer than 16 years, but once the product needs removed, we are able to take back the Envirofill and reclaim it to use it again. This means it should never end up in a landfill. We have a video outlining this feature of our product. This is wonderful for the environment but can also help field owner’s save on cost over the years. 

USGreentech is the provider of Envirofill, a coated sand infill used in synthetic turf systems and their mission is to: Create Better Turf Systems Together.

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