New SAT Delayed

In February of 2013 the new president of the College Board, David Coleman, announced a complete redesign of the SAT would be unveiled in the spring of 2015: this has been delayed a year.

The new SAT format will be contained in the fall 2015 PSAT with the revised SAT releasing in spring 2016. Robert Schaeffer of Fair Test, ever the sceptic of College Board endeavors, opined: “I always thought that David Coleman’s initial target of a spring 2015 rollout for the latest ‘new’ SAT was incredibly optimistic, given the College Board’s normal process for developing items.”

This delay, though, shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Ostensibly, the reason Mr. Coleman gives for delaying the release is that many of the admissions departments were requesting more time to prepare for the adjustment. Yet, there is a lot that has to be accomplished in 18 months. The new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) need to be implemented across the 45 states that have signed up, then the assessment of the CCSS, which will become the new SAT, needs to be finalized, and lastly the College Board needs to get as many states as possible to adopt the new SAT as a mandatory statewide assessment tool.  A delay is not surprising, whether or not the cause is the admissions officers.

So where did the CCSS come from and are its objectives achievable? CCSS originated in the National Governors Association for best practices among high schools. Dr. Louisa Moats, a well-known researcher, teacher, and psychologist was recruited in the CCSS effort in 2009 by David Coleman to write the ‘Reading Foundation Skills’ section. The skills covered in CCSS are geared to students planning to attend 4-year highly selective colleges. Dr. Moats states: “Realistically at least half, if not the majority of students are not going to meet those standards as written…” Furthermore, she believes: “Many of our teachers are not qualified or prepared to teach the standards we have written.”

Sandra Stotsky, a professor of Education at the University of Arkansas, and a member of the consortium that created Common Core, told “Everyone is willing to believe that Common Core standards are rigorous, competitive, internationally bench-marked and research-based. They are not.”

Obviously, the concerns surrounding any national curriculum, including the CCSS, tend to be volatile. Nevertheless it is fully supported by the Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan who claims much of the anxiety over CCSS is based on ‘misinformation.’ 45 states, however, have signed on. To help the adoption process, the federal government offers grants through the Race to the Top program. Colorado, for example, received $18 million when it joined.   

The new SAT, as an assessment tool to measure the efficacy of the CCSS will incorporate a number of changes including making vocabulary more practical (eliminating words such as ‘treacly’ in favor of words like ‘deliberate’.) The essay portion of the Writing section will emphasize argument using examples from supplied source materials. Math will feature understanding concepts and procedures. CCSS, unlike the ACT, currently contains no assessments for science or social studies.  

In the meantime the ACT, which from its creation was a curriculum-based test, is mandatory in eleven states, including Colorado. Delaware is the only state with 100% participation on the SAT. If through creating the assessment for CCSS, the SAT can capture a portion of these states, in a manner like the ACT, the College Board will have transformed itself into a curriculum-based standard and regained its perch high atop the world of standardized college testing.

The question remains: can the SAT outdo the ACT at its own game? Though the real question should be: how best are test-taking students served by two curriculum based standardized tests? The answer will emerge over the next half a decade.