Wednesday, March 05, 2014

SAT Changes (in a Big Way)

Update: listening to the NPR story this morning, I heard a few interesting things about this story like:

- David Coleman, the head of the SAT, says it will be better aligned to what is being taught in high school.  Fair enough, until you learn that he helped write the CC standards.  Oh.

- also, apparently historically, the SAT was NOT supposed to follow high school curriculum

End of update.

For one thing, the SAT essay will be optional by 2016 - there's a big change.   The SAT essay will have to have accurate data and facts to support the essay which leads me to believe that somehow the essay topics must be given out.  How else can any student have facts at their fingertips broad enough to cover whatever is thrown at them?

Here's a handy Ed Week chart outlining the current SAT, the new one and how it aligns with - what else? - Common Core.

Here's a link to the LA Times story on this issue.

It will be interesting to see what colleges/universities want to see. Will you have a better chance to get in if your student DOES write an essay?

As well, no more penalties for guessing.  

Another big change - use of calculators goes from using it for the full math section to only certain portions.  (This flows from how the two testing consortia will allow calculators to be used on Common Core assessments.)

Of course the SAT needed updating. Do I agree with narrowing the vocabulary to "words widely used in college and career?"  I worry a bit about that for sure. 

I also worry about this:
The grades 9-10 reading standards call for students to “analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington’s Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’), including how they address related themes and concepts.”

Why?  Because early Common Core feedback - from the Gettysburg Address - shows that students aren't being asked to explain significance of the the Address but "themes and concepts."  To take the address out of historical context, to me, lessens the whole point of reading it.  

Some of these changes were made around equity issues of coaching to take the SAT.

To help address that issue, the College Board is starting a partnership with the online Khan Academy to offer a free series of practice exams and videos about good test-taking practices. The Silicon Valley-based Khan Academy has become one of the most popular online-education sites, particularly for its math offerings.

However, CBS news reports this:

Despite the shift, Bob Schaeffer of FairTest.org, who has been a vocal critic of the SAT, was not impressed with the SAT's new direction. He also remains skeptical that the free test-prep service will level the playing field for students of different financial means.

"The partnership with the Khan Academy is unlikely to make a dent in the huge market for high-priced, personalized SAT workshops and tutoring that only well-to-do families can afford," he said. "Like most of the other College Board initiatives announced today, this move is less significant than its promoters claim."

Interestingly, the LA Times reports that the SAT will now look a lot more like its kissing cousin, the ACT.   The ACT has always aligned more with high school curriculum and so the College Board may just be making a business decision.

In some ways, the new SAT will become more like the ACT, which has an optional writing section that many colleges require. The SAT also will switch to the ACT model of grading, in which only correct answers are counted and students are not dinged for wrong ones.

The College Board has faced criticism for many years that the SAT is not fair to some low-income and minority students and that high school grades are a much better predictor of how well an applicant will do in college.


The dropping of the essay requirement will pose a dilemma for many colleges, especially for the University of California system, which is the single-largest customer of the SAT. UC administrators 10 years ago pushed and won a previous set of reforms in the SAT, including the addition of the essay, which is a 25-minute, handwritten exercise at the exam’s start.

The new optional essay will be more closely linked to the texts presented to students, requiring more analysis based on evidence and citations to material in the question prompt and less riffing on personal opinions and possibly untruthful narratives, officials said.

Additionally, the test - without the essay - will go from 3 hours, 50 minutes to 3 hours.  As well, they are going back to the 1600 point scale rather than today's 2400.

The College Board will release the complete specifications of the overhauled exam on April 16. Anyone interested in learning more about the changes can visit a new College Board website at DeliveringOpportunity.org.


Anonymous said...

Link to New York Times' (very long)article on the same subject: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/09/magazine/the-story-behind-the-sat-overhaul.html?hp&_r=0

Mom of 4

Anonymous said...

Here's a short but enjoyable bit from the New Yorker about the change: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2014/03/the-college-board-retakes-the-sat.html

And a link to Elizabeth Kolbert's longer article about taking the (current) SATs as an adult: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/03/03/140303fa_fact_kolbert?currentPage=all


Unknown said...

I would say that I was lugubrious with nostalgia for the old SAT, but then that wouldn't be correct--I would actually be talking about the PSAT. The SAT was an afterthought in the family I grew up in.

My mother was a seventies version of a "tiger mom," by God, her kids were going to get into college. The fact that our family with nine kids was surviving on my father's salary as a mechanic mean that there was no money for college. So she hit on a plan in which the kids would start studying as highschool freshmen to ace the PSAT.

It is interesting that now the test is trying to measure more about what students are taught. That wasn't the case when we were growing up in the seventies. Back then, the test was supposed to measure aptitude--so it was heavy on analysis--which it would try to get at with analogies or dense reading with arcane vocabulary. On my fourteenth birthday I received a pretty worn out copy of a "Word Power Made Easy" and a new copy of a study guide for "Miller Analogies." And the studying began.

The payoff was huge for our family. Four out of nine kids were National Merit Scholars, and back then, the $1200 scholarship it provided covered a quarter to half of college tuition. If we had not "gamed the system," and studied material not covered in school, I'm fairly certain we would not have had the money to attend college.

I'm glad they got rid of the essay question on the tests that my kids took. The New York Times article which discusses Les Perelman's research is very revealing about the validity of that part of the exam. Overall, I was far more impressed with that article than I was with the news that the SAT was being changed. Like Melissa, though, I am very concerned about the ties to Common Core State Standards, especially the fact that David Coleman, the president of the College Board helped write the Common Core State Standards. Yikes. It would be a shame if the price a school pays for flaunting the Common Core State Standards is exacted on its students SAT scores.

Anonymous said...

If you are interested in a history of the SAT and the College Read, I would encourage you to read The Big Test by Nicholas Lemann. Fascinating reading.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Meant College Board.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Another good article about the change: http://www.theonion.com/articles/changes-to-the-sat,35461/?ref=auto


Anonymous said...

I think they should experiment with the mint at the front of the test. I bet that could change scores.


Anonymous said...

I wish there was a way that we could use tests without becoming tied up in politics and high stakes and gaming, because I think they are a useful tool for learning.

I think the SAT has always suffered from not knowing what it wants to do (starting with the army aptitude test, morphing into an aptitude test for college, and then whatever it's supposed to do now -- predict college performance?).

I also think the frustration of high stems from the basic premise of "tiger mom" high achieving -- that through concerted practice you can produce excellence on any measurement instrument. But, the strategy only works if the measurement doesn't keep changing.