SAT Test To Align With Common Core
Common Core architect David Coleman, who has been the president of the College Board since 2012, says that organization’s SAT test has “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.” Announcing major changes to the SAT, Coleman states: “It is time for the College Board to say in a clearer voice that the culture and practice of costly test preparation that has arisen around admissions exams drives the perception of inequality and injustice in our country.” (New York Times, 3-5-14) Coleman’s stated intent is to align the tests with what students learn in high school and to eliminate any advantages gained by students who pay for tutoring and coaching before taking the test.
In the past, the SAT test was the gold standard for use by college admissions offices but it has been steadily losing ground to the ACT test. SAT changes announced include: eliminating “arcane” vocabulary words; focusing math questions on just three areas; returning to 1600 points total, 800 each available in reading and math; and the essay becoming optional. In addition, the College Board is launching several programs specifically aimed at giving advantages to low-income and minority students.
National Association of Scholars (NAS) President Peter Wood claims that the SAT changes are of a political nature and are part of Common Core’s march to lower standards of education in the nation. The notion that “everyone should go to college” plays a part in the motives of Coleman, both in Common Core and at the College Board. But “college” becomes something different in the world of mediocrity that Coleman is attempting to create.
Peter Wood suggests that the College Board’s new “Access to Opportunity,” “All In Campaign,” and waivers for college application fees for low-income students are indicative of the College Board’s “preoccupation” with “social justice” politics, rather than a focus on determining academic excellence and ability to succeed in college.
There is evidence that SAT changes are an effort to make the test align with Common Core standards, developed by Coleman before he moved to the College Board presidency. Common Core sets “a ceiling on the academic preparation of most students,” according to Peter Wood of the NAS. (MindingtheCampus.com, 3-9-14)
Many suggest that Common Core has lowered the standards for high school students and, consequently, Coleman needed to realign the SAT to those lowered standards. If the SAT test didn’t change, students taking the test after learning under Common Core education standards would show dismal results. Common Core defers algebra until 9th grade, with the result that students are unable to reach the level of pre-calculus or calculus in high school. Completion of calculus is the norm for admission to competitive colleges. This furthers the claim that Common Core only prepares students for two-year community colleges.
Peter Wood suggests that clever parents whose students aspire to attend elite universities will work around the limitations of the Common Core and find alternative ways for students to complete calculus in high school, but “a large percentage of bright and capable students in ordinary American schools are going to be short-changed in math.”
Students who have a strong vocabulary will be unable to gain recognition for their extensive reading and study because challenging words are being removed from the verbal portion of the SAT test, “replaced by words that are common in college courses, like ‘empirical’ and ‘synthesis.’” (New York Times, 3-5-14) Examples of words now deemed arcane are “depreciatory” and “membranous.” This gives further credence to the assertion that the SAT has been dumbed down to align with Common Core.
The changes will do little to eliminate the throngs of students who pay for help to prepare for SAT tests or the advantages gained by those who are ready to take the test. A vice president of Kaplan Test Prep told the New York Times, “People will always want an edge. And test changes always spur demand.”
NAS Pres. Peter Wood sums up Common Core and the SAT changes in his commentary at MindingtheCampus.com: “We are embarking on a great expansion of the left’s long-term project of trading off our best chances to foster individual excellence for broadly-distributed access to mediocre education.”