Education Standards Experts Blast SAT Changes

Education standards experts continue to be highly critical of the College Board’s announcement last week of significant changes to the SAT that appear to be motivated by both a liberal social justice agenda and a desire to increase market share.

As Breitbart News reported Monday, the College Board, which produces the SAT, has announced modifications to its college entrance exam beginning in 2016, changes that will likely make it less challenging for students to apply for and be accepted into colleges and universities.

David Coleman, “architect” of the now highly controversial Common Core standards and president of the College Board, said the SAT, taken by almost 1.7 million students last year, has become out-of-touch with what students are learning in school. Underscoring the social engineering goal of the changes, Coleman said the measure is currently more of an assessment of “privilege rather than merit.”

Coleman’s statement echoes that of U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said last November that opposition to the Common Core standards was coming from “white suburban moms who – all of a sudden – their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

As the Wall Street Journal indicated last week, with the new SAT, “out are obscure vocabulary words, mandatory essays, a deduction for incorrect answers and the 2400-point grading scale launched in 2005.”

“Vocabulary words like prevaricator, sagacious and ignominious will disappear in favor of words like synthesis and empirical whose meanings shift in different contexts,” states the Journal.

“The changes in the SAT are presented as a much-needed change in testing that will reflect what is really going on in schools and prepare students better for college,” Professor Terrence Moore of Hillsdale College told Breitbart News. 

Referring to the Journal report, Moore quipped, “High-sounding aims, but Mr. Coleman has proven himself a sagacious prevaricator who is capable of producing an ignominious testing regime whose real purpose is to dumb down schools while promising higher standards.”

“The formula is straightforward: reduce the school curriculum to mush; then change the tests to reflect what the schools are allegedly doing; use the tests to force the schools into doing what you want them to do; and when no one is looking, sneak in as much political indoctrination as you can,” Moore summarized.

“Mr. Coleman has to know that the exam he is creating is not the same exam that he aced in order to get into Yale, and from there went on to Oxford. He also knows that whoever controls the language controls the regime,” Moore challenged. “The children in elite private boarding and day schools will not stop mastering the English language. But the public schools throughout the nation are being encouraged and even forced to continue their downward spiral in the study of English, all the while being told that doing so will lead to ‘college and career readiness.’"  

“Here are two more abandoned words from the SAT of old that this change brings to mind: disingenuous and subterfuge,” Moore asserted.

Similarly, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita at University of Arkansas, made the connection between the Common Core standards and the changes in the SAT. Stotsky told Breitbart News:

The alignment of the SAT aptitude/achievement tests to Common Core's level of academic demand is part of a systematic effort to break trend lines for all national college admissions tests in this country so that it will not be possible to figure out how much a school curriculum aligned to Common Core's standards and influenced by tests based on those standards has lowered academic achievement in our public schools.   

The only test outside of U.S. Department of Education (USDE) control (and beyond the influence of the Gates Foundation so far) is Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The USDE wants this country to participate only in Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – and has a line item in the USDE budget for increasing this country's participation in PISA – because PISA measures only skills and low content demands. Mathematicians have estimated that the PISA test (which is for 15-year-olds) uses only about grade 4 math content in math. Finnish mathematicians were not happy with the results for Finland of its participation in earlier PISA tests and asked for Finland's participation in the recent TIMSS test. Results showed a lower level of mathematics knowledge in Finland than the PISA results suggested.

“Given David Coleman's lack of credentials for being the ‘chief architect’ for Common Core's English language arts standards, it is not clear why he should be trusted for whatever he does at the College Board,” asserted Stotsky. “It may be better for all post-secondary institutions to say that henceforth they are not interested in the results of any college admissions tests that have not been developed by a state's own institutions of higher education.”

“Time to put the SATs on the shelf and say goodbye to an effort that began around 1900 and is no longer useful,” Stotsky added. “Our colleges and universities need to develop their own matriculation tests – in each state.”

One of the changes associated with the SAT is that low-income students will be able to apply to as many as four participating colleges free of charge.

Coleman said Latinos and African-Americans, whom he referred to in May of 2013 as “low-hanging fruit,” have not had access to advanced placement classes – also run by the College Board.

“These patterns of access, if allowed to continue, will build an iron wall of inequality into the next generation,” he said.

Steven Syverson, a National Association for College Admissions Counseling board member, questioned the motives of the College Board, which has lost market share to the ACT college entrance exam in recent years.

“The other thing it will do is encourage students to take the SAT instead of the ACT,” Syverson said. “I wonder if they’re looking out there and wondering, ‘What is the best way to get our market share back?’”

Students will also have access to free online tutorials for SAT preparation, through the College Board’s partnership with the Khan Academy.

In 2010, the Khan Academy was granted $1,464,667 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the primary source of private funding for the Common Core standards, “to provide general operating support, expanding Khan Academy’s leadership and staff capacity to map Khan Academy content to the Common Core high school standards, improve assessments, and enhance the user interface.”

In addition, the Gates Foundation granted $4,079,361 in 2011 to the Khan Academy “to develop the remaining K-12 math exercises to ensure full coverage of the Common Core math standards and form a small team to implement a blended learning model.”

In 2012, the Gates Foundation granted Khan Academy $5,000,000 “to support capacity building efforts.”

It is clear that the changes to the SAT are meant to provide a seamless transition for high school students who have been exposed to Common Core-aligned curricula and tests.

In fact, the College Board states it plans to work with teachers to align the test with the high-school curriculum to reflect "real demands of first-year college courses and career training programs."

As the Journal reported, Sonia Frank, a 17-year-old Chicago high school junior, said, “If the new version of the SAT was available now, I would definitely be taking this over the ACT. It’s just like everything I’ve been learning in school, where we are analyzing documents and seeing how we came to that answer.”

“The idea of condensed math makes it much easier to narrow down what you want to study,” she said.


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