David Coleman’s “Redesigned” SAT: Just Another Narrow, Common-Core-centered Product
On January 20, 2015, The Atlantic carried an article entitled, “New SAT, New Problems.” It’s author, James Murphy, identifies himself in the article as a “test preparation tutor.”
The gist of the article is that College Board’s SAT redesign has issues. It should come as no surprise to anyone that College Board President David Coleman, a key Common Core State Standards (CCSS) promoter and insider, has redesigned the SAT to assess CCSS. America knew this CCSS-focused SAT was coming; Murphy is simply commenting on College Board’s early release of some noveau-SAT items.
The major, intentionally-ignored problem of CCSS by the pro-CCSS set is that claims of “college and career readiness” are backed by zero empirical research. That is, the creators of CCSS (of which Coleman is at the center of the center) have simply declared CCSS as “college and career ready” without taking the time to test the completed CCSS product.
CCSS was simply declared “college and career ready” via repetition of this catchphrase in media news bytes.
In fact, the best that CCSS assessment consortia, Smarter Balanced (SBAC), could even produce by way of a flimsy anchoring of CCSS to what are supposed to be CCSS assessments was to define “college ready” as “CCSS content ready”– and to admit that it has no idea how to define “career ready.”
Serving as its own authority, CCSS simply turns back on itself to define “college and career ready.”
Educational standards incest.
Though CCSS is supposed to equip students to be ready for college and careers, higher education has not escaped the pressure to bend itself to CCSS. Indeed, if CCSS were supposed to make students “college ready,” then higher education would surely not be expected to even align itself with CCSS. However, that is the state of American education at present: Higher education should also become “CCSS ready.”
This is creepy, folks.
And so, here we are, with a January 2015 Atlantic article about a test, the SAT– which stands for “scholastic aptitude test”– losing its original intention as a measure of aptitude for college success to a Coleman “redesigned” measure of CCSS mastery.
Murphy’s Atlantic article centers on the emerging problems of the redesigned SAT as a measure of CCSS. Unfortunately, it seems that Murphy is getting caught in the idea that all will be better with the “redesigned SAT” once teachers and students become better at “doing CCSS.”
In short, the revised SAT is to become a CCSS achievement test.
Though Murphy seems mainly comfortable with the idea of the new SAT as a CCSS achievement test, he does note that the original, criticized SAT was indeed a measure of aptitude:
For all the faults of the SAT, one of its merits, at least in theory, is that it can identify students whose formal education might be lacking but who have the mental firepower to succeed given the opportunity. [Emphasis added.]
In considering applicants for admission, colleges and universities desire to know whether the students they admit might be expected to do well as post-secondary students. Thus, they review criteria that include measures of aptitude.
Sadly, given our current “globally competitive” test-driven mania, aptitude measures are weakened by the intensive test prep that has become commonplace. When I took the ACT in the early 1980s, I knew of no one who enrolled in a course to “add points” to their ACT score. I did not even know of anyone who purchased a book on ACT test prep.
Times have changed. We now have individuals like Murphy, who train students in “strategies” to “raise scores,” as he notes in his Atlantic article:
Kids who lack access to in-person test preparation from tutors like me—who are trained to analyze the new test material and develop strategies for raising scores—could also suffer. [Emphasis added.]
“Raising scores” does not equal authentic learning.
Who would want a lawyer, or doctor, or tax advisor, or water quality control manager who received a certification in her/his field based on “score-raising strategies”? Do we not expect these professionals to be masters in their fields and not just “good at test strategy”?
Ironically, even the measures of aptitude, such as the SAT used to be, are not the best predictors of college success. College Board President David Coleman even admits that high school grades are a better predictor of college success than are standardized tests.
Those closer to the students are better able to assess the students. Imagine that.
But here well-positioned edupreneur Coleman is, aligning the SAT to CCSS and calling it “college and career ready.”
Fortunately, there are already a number of higher ed institutions that either de-emphasize SAT and ACT scores in admissions decisions or disregard them altogether. Thus, the apparent pressure for all of American education to center on CCSS has an existent release valve in higher education.
Perhaps this list will grow as attempts to make CCSS the center of the American education universe backfire on the likes of Coleman and other test-centric, privatizing reform opportunists.
Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education