Change is coming to the SAT test.
A vice president at the College Board emailed its members this week to announce that the College Board will be redesigning the SAT.
This will be the first revamping since 2005 when the essay was added and those infuriating analogies (cake is to icing as a unicycle is to __) were banished. The College Board has only overhauled the SAT twice in the past 20 years.
Why the SAT Change
I’m sure that the SAT’s overhaul didn’t come as a surprise to higher-ed insiders for at least a couple of reasons.
First, there are competitive reasons for the change. For the first time ever, more students in 2012 took the ACT than the SAT, which has been around since 1926. The ACT just barely surpassed the SAT in tests administered, but that still must be worrisome to the College Board.
Secondly, David Coleman, the College Board’s new president, who was intimately involved in the Common Core State Standards Initiative, has expressed his dissatisfaction with some elements of the test. At a speech at the Brookings Institute last year, Coleman said he was unhappy with the writing exam. Here is a portion of what he said during that talk:
I have a problem with the SAT writing. So if you look at the way the SAT assessment is designed, when you write an essay even if it’s an opinion piece, there’s no source information given to you. So in other words, you write like what your opinion is on a subject, but there’s no fact on the table. So a friend of mine tutors in Hong Kong, and she was asked by her Hong Kong students, where do you get the examples for the essay? She said, you know, it’s the American way, you make them up.
Now I’m all for creativity and innovation, but I don’t think that’s quite the creativity we want to inspire in a generation of youth. That is, if writing is to be ready for the demands of career and college, it must be precise, it must be accurate, it must draw upon evidence. Now I think that is warranted by tons of information we see from surveys of college professors, from evidence we have from other sources, so I think there is good reason to think about a design of SAT where rather than kids just writing an essay, there’s source material that they’re analyzing.
Making Up Stuff During the SAT
SAT Critic Responds
Among those weighing in on the news was Robert Schaeffer, a founder of FairTest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the misuse of standardized tests. (Schaeffer was kind enough to endorse the second edition of my book.) Here is his reaction that he sent to the Washington Post about the upcoming redesign:
The College Board’s announcement that it plans to revise its flagship exam, less than eight years after the previous “major overhaul” of the test was first administered, is an admission that the highly touted “new SAT” introduced in 2005 was a failure. The latest version of the test is, in fact, no better than its predecessor in predicting academic success in higher education or in creating a level playing field to assess an increasingly diverse student body. The only significant changes were that it was longer and cost test-takers more. As a result, more than 80 additional institutions have adopted test-optional or test flexible policies and the ACT overtook the SAT as the nation’s most popular exam for colleges which still require a test. Those developments left the new College Board leadership with no choice but to try to “reformulate” its product in an effort to maintain market share and relevance.
If you’d like to learn more about this SAT redesign, read the post that I wrote at my college blog at CBS MoneyWatch.
Finally, if you want to learn more about the history of the last SAT revision, read this essay by Richard Atkinson, the former president of the University of California, which helped prod the College Board to make the move.
Students deserve a smarter SAT and I hope they get one. Stay tuned.