kitchen table math, the sequel: 3/2/14 - 3/9/14

Friday, March 7, 2014

Any Comments on the New SAT?

For 2016, the SAT is reverting back to a 1600 based test, with the composition section optional.

The composition will be about 50 minutes rather than 25, and will focus on evidence rather than opinion.

I expect that most colleges will require this section.

"Changes in the annual test that millions of students take will also do away with some vocabulary words such as "prevaricator" and "sagacious" in favor of words more commonly used in school and on the job."

"Currently, students lose a quarter of a point for wrong answers, but no points for omitted responses. Moving forward, they will simply receive credit for correct answers."

Just this one change will squeeze the bell curve higher and reduce differentiation.

The new math test will have a portion where calculators are prohibited.

"It [math] will also focus on narrower topics — described in a College Board press release as "problem solving and data analysis; the heart of algebra; and passport to advanced math" — that Coleman suggested will most contribute to a student's college and career readiness."

"advanced math"? Remember that college and career readiness means passing a course in college algebra.

""No longer will the SAT only have disconnected problems or tricky situations students won't likely see again," he said"

How else will they create a bell curve at the top end using a limited range of material?

What do colleges think of these changes? Did the College Board ask them?

"It is time to admit that the SAT and ACT have become disconnected from the work of our high schools," he said.

This is interesting. They don't want to be seen as just following the ACT and they are trashing their competitor at the same time.

"Mr. Coleman believes changing the focus of the exam also will change instruction, from rote learning of SAT vocabulary from flashcards to deeper learning. He said the new SAT "will measure the best of what students are working on in class -- the work that most prepares them for college and career success.""

Which is it? Will the new SAT reflect what's going on in class, or will it be used to drive what should be going on in class?

"...that such standardized tests can create "unproductive anxiety" for students and lead to expensive private test prep and coaching that "reinforces privilege rather than merit."

Coleman can't have it both ways. The point of the test is to show how students compare on a nationally normed test. The score will be used by colleges to separate them. That's the whole point of their product. There will ALWAYS be test prep that favors students with involved parents or those willing to spend the money. The only way to eliminate the benefit of test prep is to truncate the bell curve at the top end. Many more students will then get perfect scores. How many colleges will want the scores from a test that shows how many students can tie their shoes?

I like it that they want to eliminate those questions used only for creating the bell curve at the top end, but wonder what they are going to replace it with. Will there be more content, say from their SAT II tests? Will they add AP-level questions? Or, will the new SAT drive the trend towards less academic differentiation and more fuzzy holistic college admissions? Even the SAT II tests and the AP tests can't differentiate students at the upper end of the curve.