The Story Behind the SAT Changes

Changes to the SAT, Story Behind SAT Changes, SAT Changes

“The New York Times” has a great piece on the story behind the changes to the SAT.

“The New York Times” has a fantastic, in-depth piece on the story behind the SAT changes. Entitled “The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul,” the piece by Todd Balf particularly paints an illuminating portrait of David Coleman, the president of the College Board. Coleman is portrayed as a refreshing leader who upon being named president of the organization brought in one of the College Board’s most outspoken opponents, an MIT director of writing named Les Perelman. Perelman had previously shown through case examples how students who peppered in SAT words like “plethora” on their writing sample could excel on this component of the exam, even if their facts were incorrect (i.e., stating that the War of 1812 began in the twentieth century). Perelman also pointed out to Coleman that at what other time in your life are you asked to write about a subject that you have previously never even considered? Never. Not in college. Not at work. Not in life. So why test this, right?

This particular depiction of Coleman by Balf was an amusing one to us: “When I met with Coleman in his office last month to talk about the remaking of the SAT, he periodically leapt from his chair when he became excited about an idea. At one point he jumped up and drew a dividing line down the middle of his whiteboard (he’s a very enthusiastic user of the whiteboard), then scrawled, ‘Evidence-based reading and writing’ on one side and ‘Math’ on the other. He was unveiling, at least in broad strokes, the results of those many months of rethinking and testing.”

David Coleman, a Yale graduate, seems very much to be a change agent. He seems to have been an excellent choice to lead the College Board and to change the SAT. Make no mistake, changing the SAT was also a strategic business decision as more students have been taking the ACT of late as compared to the SAT. But David Coleman, who brought in a man who didn’t agree with the College Board to understand where he was coming from and what ideas he had, seems to have been just the man to enact this change. Good for David Coleman and the College Board. Rare praise from Ivy Coach to the College Board, we know.


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  • James Anderson says:

    I don’t think facts being incorrect is really relevant to what the essay test is measuring. The test should be about mastery of the English language, not how much a person knows about a random topic.

  • Rosemary Laberee says:

    David Coleman has “aligned” the SAT to high school curriculum, or so he says. His company (side-business), Achieve the Core, funded by Bill Gates, stands to benefit considerably if all states jump on board the Common Core wagon. Is the “alignment” of the SAT to curriculum the long, slow, curve ball to force states to accept the idea of a Common Core Curriculum? Probably.

    He claims to be leveling the playing field for disadvantaged students. He is offering free sign up for the test and free prep. Oh, yippee! Yet, there has always been free SAT Prep available online and in books. The College Board has always provided a way for economically disadvantaged to sign up for these tests – no fee. Also, the new SAT has sections of math where a calculator cannot be used. So, using a calculator was holding back the disadvantaged? What the heck?

    Khan Academy announced this week its partnership with SAT. (They did not mention that they, too, are getting big, big bucks from Bill Gates.) Reading their announcement, you’d think that they have just now stepped into the SAT prep space. Khan Academy has offered free SAT Prep for a long, long time. This is nothing new . And it has always been free. Getting students to use this free service is another story.

    Finally that optional essay – this is a curious thing. Almost ALL competitive four year colleges will require the essay, anyway. So it is not optional for the Ivies or potted Ivies, etc. So, the essay is really just being eliminated for mid-level, state and less competitive colleges. No great victory here. Coleman’s message is one of two things: “I want to be like the ACT, more people buy it. – OR – Writing is not important.” Either way, I don’t like it.

    Of greatest concern is that we have allowed the well-heeled elite like Coleman and Gates to choreograph the dance for the common kid. Something is rotten in Denmark.

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