College Board Attempts to Rescue the SAT by Changing the Exam

Teens around the country will breathe a little easier, and sweat much less.

The College Board President David Coleman announced Wednesday that it will make significant changes to the SAT, which it administers, by eliminating the essay portion as a requirement of the exam, reverting it back to its previous system of test takers aiming for a 1600 scale instead of 2400. The College Board added the essay portion in 2005.

“What this country needs is not more tests, but more opportunities,” said Coleman at an event in Austin, TX, where he was joined by students and community leaders to announce the changes. “The real news today is not just the redesigned SAT, but the College Board’s renewed commitment to delivering opportunity.”

The facelift to the test, which will go into effect in 2016, comes on the heels of two major changes in education: the dropping of the SAT’s market share with its rival the ACT and the ongoing implementation of the Common Core.

At present, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core curriculum, which aims to set math and English Language Arts standards for K-12 students to reach by the end of each grade level on a state-led basis.

Coleman is said to be “the architect” of the Common Core and is a prominent education activist, igniting some controversies and conversations about student learning.

As the current president, Coleman led the charge in making sweeping revisions to the exam by reverting the SAT back to its original 1600 scale and include three sections: math, evidence-based reading and writing, and an optional essay, also without relying on obscure vocabulary and penalizing students for guessing. Coleman said all these changes will serve to align the SAT with what will be taught in Common Core high school classrooms.

“We will honor the qualities which have made the SAT excellent,” said Coleman. “We will build on the remarkable care and expertise which statisticians have used to make the exam valid and predictive. 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.”

A large part of it will also be re-designed to make access to higher education more attainable for all. The College Board said that it is partnering with Khan Academy to provide free test preparation materials for the new SAT, and aiming it to encompass students from every socioeconomic level.

“Every income-eligible student who takes the SAT will directly receive four fee waivers to apply to college, removing a cost barrier faced especially by low- and middle-income students,” said Coleman.

Aside from that, SAT test prep companies are looking at the changes from a different point of view.

Juhno Suh is an education consultant at Ivy Global, which operates offices in New York City, several other U.S cities and Canada.

“We’re looking at how we’re going to revamp our strategies,” said Suh. “It’s very early and no one has a clear understanding.”

To take a regular, accelerated or crash SAT course taught by their tutors, who come from Ivy and other top universities in the country and ranked in the 99th percentile of the 2400 scale SAT, will cost $650-$1600.

Suh said that their strategy now is to develop core materials that focus on the areas of the SAT and to prepare their students who will look at a new test for the very first time in 2016.

“We welcome the change,” said Suh. “It’s more relevant to what students will be learning in the classroom.”

Opponents believe that exams like the SAT and ACT seem obsolete and that there is no direct correlation between test scores and college performance, which has led to nearly a thousand universities in the country to become test optional, giving students choice in whether they want to have test scores weighed in the admissions process.

In addition, the SAT has seen a dip in the marketshare of higher education admissions tests compared its rival the ACT, administered by the ACT Assessment College. In 2012, the ACT overtook the SAT for the first time, and in 2013 1.8 million students took the former, while 1.7 million took the latter. Much throughout the West Coast and East Coast the SAT still dominates, and the ACT is the go-to test in the Midwest and parts of the South.

The changes also come as more and more students have not been meeting the college readiness standard set by the College Board, where 46 percent of students met the benchmark in 2013.

“They’ve been losing market shares to their rival,” said Suh. “They’ve been pressured to really look at the SAT.”

“They’re running a business and that’s one of the biggest reasons they made the changes,” he continued.

Suh said that Ivy Global’s goal is to now prepare their students for the new exam, which will take place for the first time in 2016. He also added that the their strategy will be seamless since he believes it will be more relevant to the school curriculum

“It gives us two years to make changes to our program,” he said.  “We’re waiting to hear back about what it will look like.”


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