Thursday, March 06, 2014

3 stories+an editorial: THE NEW SAT ...from the same wonderful purveyors of ®eform who brought you the Common Core Standards

Gone are the essay, the SAT “vocab words” and a focus on literature and writing. Science remains untested. The College Board President admits that high school grades are a better predictor of college success than standardized test scores.


NY Times: A New SAT Aims to Realign With Schoolwork

By TAMAR LEWIN, New York Times |

The overall scoring will return to the old 1600 scales, based on a top score of 800 in reading and math. Credit Rui Vieira/Press Association

MARCH 5, 2014  ::  Saying its college admission exams do not focus enough on the important academic skills, the College Board announced on Wednesday a fundamental rethinking of the SAT, ending the longstanding penalty for guessing wrong, cutting obscure vocabulary words and making the essay optional.

The president of the College Board, David Coleman, criticized his own test, the SAT, and its main rival, the ACT, saying that both had “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.”

In addition, Mr. Coleman announced programs to help low-income students, who will now be given fee waivers allowing them to apply to four colleges at no charge. And even before the new exam is introduced, in the spring of 2016, the College Board, in partnership with Khan Academy, will offer free online practice problems and instructional videos showing how to solve them.

The changes are extensive: The SAT’s rarefied vocabulary challenges will be replaced by words that are common in college courses, like “empirical” and “synthesis.” The math questions, now scattered across many topics, will focus more narrowly on linear equations, functions and proportional thinking. The use of a calculator will no longer be allowed on some of the math sections.


Among other changes, the new test will not ask students to define arcane words, relying instead on vocabulary used in college courses. Credit Paul Vernon/Associated Press >>

The new exam will be available on paper and computer, and the scoring will revert to the old 1,600-point scale — from 2,400 — with top scores of 800 on math and 800 on what will now be called “evidence-based reading and writing.” The optional essay, which strong writers may choose to do, will have a separate score.

Once the pre-eminent college admissions exam, the SAT has lost ground to the ACT, which is based more directly on high school curriculums and is now taken by a slightly higher number of students. Last year, 1.8 million students took the ACT and 1.7 million the SAT.

The new SAT will not quell all criticism of standardized tests. Critics have long pointed out — and Mr. Coleman admits — that high school grades are a better predictor of college success than standardized test scores. More colleges have in recent years become “test optional,” allowing students to forgo the exams and submit their grades, transcripts and perhaps a graded paper.

For many students, Mr. Coleman said, the tests are mysterious and “filled with unproductive anxiety.” And, he acknowledged, they inspire little respect from classroom teachers: only 20 percent, he said, see the college-admission tests as a fair measure of the work their students have done.

Mr. Coleman came to the College Board in 2012, from a job as an architect of the Common Core curriculum standards, which set out the content that students must master at each level and are now making their way into school.

He announced plans to revise the SAT a year ago and almost from the start expressed dissatisfaction with the essay that was added in 2005. He said he also wanted to make the test reflect more closely what students did in high school and, perhaps most important, rein in the intense coaching and tutoring on how to take the test that often gave affluent students an advantage.

“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,” Mr. Coleman said Wednesday. “It may not be our fault, but it is our problem.”

While test-preparation companies said the SAT was moving in the right direction, with more openness and more free online test preparation, the changes were unlikely to diminish the demand for their services. “People will always want an edge,” said Seppy Basili, a vice president of Kaplan Test Prep. “And test changes always spur demand.”

The suggested changes were well received among many educators, but Mr. Coleman’s comments about the ACT drew harsh words from an executive of that company.

“David Coleman is not a spokesman for the ACT, and I acknowledge his political gamesmanship but I don’t appreciate it,” said Jon Erickson, president of ACT’s education division. “It seems like they’re mostly following what we’ve always done.”

Philip Ballinger, the director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Washington, said he admired Mr. Coleman’s heartfelt “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” approach to improving the SAT and appreciated the effort to tame the test-prep industry.

“It’s absurd, and that’s the nicest thing I can call it, how much test prep has grown and how guilt-ridden parents have become about trying to prepare their kids for the test,” Mr. Ballinger said. “If this helps test prep become learning, not gaming, well, shoot, that’s great. “

<< David Coleman Credit Angel Franco/The New York Times

Some changes will make the new SAT more like the ACT, which for the last two years has outpaced the SAT in test takers. Thirteen states administer the ACT to all public high school juniors, and three more are planning to do so. The ACT has no guessing penalty, and its essay is optional. It also includes a science section, and while the SAT is not adding one, the redesigned reading test will include a science passage.

But beyond the particulars, Mr. Coleman emphasized that the three-hour exam — three hours and 50 minutes with the essay — had been redesigned with an eye toward reinforcing the skills and evidence-based thinking that students should be learning in high school, and moving away from a need for test-taking tricks and strategies. Sometimes, students will be asked not just to select the right answer but to justify it by choosing the quotation from a text that provides the best supporting evidence for their answer.

The revised essay, in particular, will shift in that direction. Students now write about their experiences and opinions, with no penalty for incorrect assertions, even egregiously wrong ones. In the future, though, students will receive a source document and be asked to analyze it for its use of evidence, reasoning and persuasive or stylistic technique.

The text will be different on each exam, but the essay task will remain constant. The required essay never entirely caught on with college admissions officers. Many never figured the score into the admission decision and looked at the actual essays only rarely, as a raw writing sample to help detect how much parents, consultants and counselors had edited and polished the essay submitted with the application.

The Key Changes

These will be among the changes in the new SAT, starting in the spring of 2016:

■ Instead of arcane “SAT words” (“depreciatory,” “membranous”), the vocabulary definitions on the new exam will be those of words commonly used in college courses, such as “synthesis” and “empirical.”

■ The essay, required since 2005, will become optional. Those who choose to write an essay will be asked to read a passage and analyze the ways its author used evidence, reasoning and stylistic elements to build an argument.

■ The guessing penalty, in which points are deducted for incorrect answers, will be eliminated.

■ The overall scoring will return to the old 1,600-point scale, based on a top score of 800 in reading and math. The essay will have a separate score.

■ Math questions will focus on three areas: linear equations; complex equations or functions; and ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning. Calculators will be permitted on only part of the math section.

■ Every exam will include, in the reading and writing section, source documents from a broad range of disciplines, including science and social studies, and on some questions, students will be asked to select the quotation from the text that supports the answer they have chosen.

■ Every exam will include a reading passage either from one of the nation’s “founding documents,” such as the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights, or from one of the important discussions of such texts, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”


SAT overhaul to make essay optional, end penalty for wrong answers

Changes in the college entrance exam will also seek to lessen the impact of tutoring on scores.

By Larry Gordon, L.A. Times |

David Coleman

College Board officials announced updates for the SAT college entrance exam Wednesday, the first since 2005. Above: College Board President David Coleman. (Eric Gay / Associated Press / March 5, 2014)

March 5, 2014, 6:00 p.m.  ::  In a major overhaul of the SAT college entrance exam, students starting in 2016 will no longer be required to write an essay, will not be penalized for wrong answers and will not be able to freely use calculators.

The College Board announcement Wednesday shook up a test that is taken by about 1.7 million high school students annually and, though its influence has been waning, remains a major factor in college admission decisions nationally.

The shifts, officials said, are part of an effort to better align the 88-year-old exam with what students learn in high school and to get away from any advantages they may gain from expensive private tutoring.

The main SAT will be condensed to two sections from the current three, and the top score possible will be 1,600 — as it had been for many decades. (The present 2,400 point maximum began with the introduction of the essay seven years ago.) The writing portion will be optional — though many colleges still may demand applicants take it — and will be graded separately.

College Board President David Coleman said the revised reading exam will drop the most obscure vocabulary words and instead "focus on words students will use over and over again." The math problems will be less theoretical and more linked to real-life questions.

"While we build on the best of the past, we commit today that the redesigned SAT will be more focused and useful, more clear and open, than ever before," Coleman said in a speech in Austin, Texas, that was streamed on the Internet.

Under the new testing structure, calculators will be banned on some sections of the math exam and students will no longer have a quarter of a point deducted from their final score for each wrong answer. In addition, the College Board, which owns the SAT, said it would start offering the exam online as well as in the traditional paper version.

Although test sponsors long have argued that coaching does not help students significantly raise their scores, Coleman acknowledged Wednesday that many people believe tutoring does lend an advantage, worsening the sense of "inequality and injustice" surrounding the SAT.

"It is time for an admissions assessment that makes it clear that the road to success is not last-minute tricks or cramming, but the challenging learning students do each day," Coleman said.

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 methods. The Silicon Valley-based academy has become one of the most popular online education sites, particularly its math offerings.

By all appearances, the new SAT will be more populist and more in line with the new federal Common Core teaching standards for K-12 education adopted by most states. Math questions, for instance, will concentrate more on basic areas of problem solving, data analysis and algebra.

Reaction to Wednesday's announcement included complaints that the SAT was being dumbed down and statements of strong support. Education analysts said the College Board was taking the steps out of both self-interest and public interest.

The SAT in recent years has been losing market share to the ACT exam, which most colleges also accept. Last year, about 1.8 million students took the ACT compared with about 1.7 million for the SAT, while some took both as insurance. In some ways, the new SAT will become more like the ACT, which has an optional writing section and does not penalize students for wrong answers.

Critics have said that the SAT is unfair to low-income and minority students, and is a less reliable predictor of college success than are high school grades. As a result, some colleges have eliminated the need for any entrance exam.

Dropping the essay requirement poses a dilemma for many colleges, especially the University of California system — the largest customer of the SAT. UC administrators pushed for and won a previous set of SAT reforms that included the addition of the 25-minute-long handwritten essay.

Stephen Handel, the UC system's associate vice president for undergraduate admissions, said it was too soon to say whether UC would continue to require the essay. Such a decision will be made by a special faculty committee that handles admissions standards and by the UC regents.

But Handel and other administrators noted that the UC application requires its own essays and that the SAT writing sample is just one part of a wide portfolio of grades and personal achievements. The SAT essay, he said, "has a place, but a limited place."

Coleman said Wednesday that college admissions officers were divided over the value of the essay in choosing a freshman class. "One essay alone historically has not contributed significantly to the overall predictive power of the exam," he said.

The optional essay will be more closely linked to the texts presented to students during the exam, requiring more analysis and citations from the material in the questions and less riffing on personal opinions and possibly untruthful narratives, officials said.

However, some critics said making the essay optional and having a main test of only multiple-choice questions sends a bad and perplexing message.

"I'm not sure it is a good signal to kids in schools about the importance of writing," said Katy Murphy, president of the National Assn. for College Admission Counseling. The change also will confuse high school seniors, who may not have access to good counseling and may be unsure of how to fulfill requirements that vary among colleges, said Murphy, director of college counseling at Bellarmine College Preparatory high school in San Jose.

On the other hand, Paul Jordan, director of student counseling at Loyola High School, a Jesuit boys school in Los Angeles, welcomed the changes as a stress reliever for students. He also said he favored the essay becoming optional, since the way a student interprets the essay question "can affect their scores and can be problematic."

A persistent and vocal critic of the SAT remained unswayed.

Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, predicted that the revised test was unlikely to be better than the current one and that commercial coaching still would be popular.

"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 in a statement.


Times staff writer Alicia Banks contributed to this article.

Students, area school staff embrace changes to SAT

By Alicia Banks, Los Angeles Times |

March 6, 2014, 7:00 a.m.  ::  Pablo Muñoz is no stranger to academic rigor. And don't expect him to shirk additional work. As many cheered sweeping changes to the SAT -- such as the optional essay -- the 15-year-old Loyola High School sophomore is likely not to skip that portion.

"I would probably do the essay because I think it could give me a slight edge over test takers," he said. "I think it might be a gateway for students to shortchange themselves" if they don't write the essay.

For Pablo, it all comes down to showing colleges he's a dedicated student.

But so are many other students who find the overhaul of the SAT's structure and content beneficial to their aspirations of attending college in the coming years. In addition to the optional essay, the College Board announced plans Wednesday to condense the college-entrance exam from two to three sections, capping the highest possible score at 1,600. Reading sections will focus on words students will use again in college and beyond.

Claudia Gossard, a counselor at John C. Fremont High in South L.A., called the changes "beneficial" to the school's predominantly Latino student body. She's worked at the school for 14 years and seen students, many of whom considered English a second language, struggle with the SAT's vocabulary.

"That can put them at a disadvantage," Gossard said. "This change will be beneficial to our students."

She also applauded the College Board's new partnership with Khan Academy to offer a free series of practice exams and videos on successful test-taking practices. Gossard said many students can't take advantage of the costly tutoring or test-prep offered by the Princeton Review or Kaplan Test Prep. At least 80% of Fremont's student body qualifies for free or reduced price lunch, a poverty indicator, Gossard said.

College Board officials said the overhaul will better align exams with what students learn in high school and will need in college. Loyola High's assistant principal of student life and director of student counseling, Paul Jordan, described the move "as less stressful for students."

"Some students feel they need to do more to prepare for these tests instead of just going to school. It creates an extra layer of learning," Jordan said. "I like the concept of coming back to where the high schools are."

So do district staff and teachers within the Arcadia Unified School District. Leslie Klipstein, an English teacher at Arcadia High, praised the College Board's decision to count only correct answers and not dock points for wrong ones, noting "less fear" for test-takings students. She said the overall SAT changes align with ongoing efforts to teach students real-life skills, not test-taking ones.

"It's validation for what I do," Klipstein said. "I'm excited [that] what I teach every day will be relevant to the college process."

And college is already on the mind of 15-year-old Elias Saravia. The sophomore at North Hollywood High School has Stanford University in his sights. He was delighted by the thought of the SAT honing in on material he learned in high school.

"Now, there will be things I learned in math class or English," Saravia said. "That can increase my chances of going to Stanford."

Changes to the SAT are slated for spring 2016

Re-examining the SAT is (A) Good; (B) Bad; (C) Overdue; (D) None of the above

The College Board is making changes to its famous test. But do such exams have any relevance in predicting a student's success?

By The Times editorial board |

March 6, 2014  ::  Less than a decade after it started requiring students to write an essay as part of the SAT, the College Board announced Wednesday that it is eliminating that portion of the test. At the same time, it will do away with certain obscure vocabulary words and the penalty for inaccurate guesses. These are good moves, but they don't answer the fundamental question of whether the standardized test should continue to be a part of the college application process, especially after a new study found that it is a poor predictor of whether students will succeed in college.

The mandatory essay was never a helpful addition to the test. Students were expected to write it in less than half an hour, and there was no requirement that they back up their opinions with accurate information; in our opinion, it provided little if any information to colleges about how well an applicant could write or think. What's more, it favored those who wrote a lot over those who wrote well, and rewarded those who used a multisyllabic vocabulary. It will be replaced by a new, optional essay in which students will analyze the arguments of a written passage.

Speaking of big words, the College Board also said it would eliminate lesser-known words such as "prevaricator" that people seldom if ever use, even in academia. Students generally know these words only through cramming, not through mastery of the language. The test will cover fewer math topics but will do so in more depth, and the College Board will offer online tutoring for low-income students.

With more colleges shifting to the rival ACT, and many colleges making both tests optional, the College Board is clearly struggling to keep its signature product relevant. But there is an inherent problem with a high-stakes test that so clearly benefits affluent students who can afford to pay for private tutors and multiple test sittings. Chucking the essay and changing some of the questions don't fix those problems.


DAVID COLEMAN, from Wikpedia

Coleman went to public school in New York City, PS 41, IS 70 and, Stuyvesant High School.[5] He attended college at Yale University. While at Yale, he tutored secondary students in reading in the Ulysses S. Grant program for low-income New Haven students and started Branch–an innovative community service program that worked with students at an inner city New Haven high school. Based on the success of Branch, Coleman received a Rhodes Scholarship, which he used to study English literature at Oxford University and classical philosophy at Cambridge University.[6] He returned to New York and applied for a high school teaching job but was turned down, so he went to work at McKinsey & Company, where he advised urban school districts for five years.

Together with a team of educators, Coleman then founded the Grow Network, an organization committed to revise assessment. The Grow Network delivered quality reports for parents and teachers as well as individualized learning guides for students. McGraw-Hill acquired the organization in 2004. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.[7]

Coleman left McGraw-Hill in 2007 and co-founded Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit that assembles educators and researchers to design actions based on evidence to improve student outcomes. Student Achievement Partners played a leading role in developing the Common Core State Standards in math and literacy.[8] As a Founding Partner, Coleman helped lead Student Achievement Partners' work to contribute to the Common Core State Standards.

Coleman served as a founding member on the board of Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst.[9] He left StudentsFirst and Student Achievement Partners and joined the College Board as its president in October, 2012.

The Common Core

In 2009 the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers launched an initiative to write Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics in schools. David Coleman was on the English Language Arts writing team, which was chaired by Student Achievement Partners co-founder Sue Pimentel. Another co-founder, Jason Zimba was on the Mathematics writing team. The standards have been adopted by all states, including the District of Columbia, except Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia. Student Achievement partners supports implementation of of the Common Core standards.[10] The Common Core has created a national market for book publishers and test developers.[11] Beginning in the 2014 to 2015 school year, schools will begin using standardized exams along with the Common Core's standards.[12]

Wikipedia is not exhaustive research material. sometimes it’s all one needs.

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