Sunday, February 9, 2014


I just got a peek at the new Colemanized CCSS-enriched SATs.

Not a precise peek. I am a member on several take-a-survey sites (for a little click and scroll, I earn us some magazine subscriptions), and because I'm registered as a high school teacher, I just got to take a market survey about the SAT tests.

Understand that what I saw were market research questions, and therefor may represent things which may or may not come to fruition. But these were not "is this a good idea" questions-- these were "what's the most appealing way to word this" questions. Here's what I saw.

After making sure I knew what the SAT was and what it stands for (there seems to be some question about whether to keep having the letters stand for something, kind of like KFC), the first round of questions asked me to consider some naming possibilities for two new tests-- 

·  Grade 8/9 - a low-stakes college and career readiness assessment for early high school planning

·  Grade 10/11 - a college and career readiness assessment for mid-high school planning

So, two new products to roll out.

Then we moved on to some new language to consider for the revised version of the SAT test. There were questions that involved the same boilerplate language we've seen with CCSS. Most of these were asked twice-- first to gauge whether a description of the new test items was appealing, and second to consider specific language. Here's one sample:

The revised SAT will be based on the skills and knowledge that research shows to be essential for students’ college and career readiness and success. These are the same skills and knowledge that teachers focus on today in __________ classrooms. The revised SAT will be more focused than ever and support teachers in their work by encouraging students’ daily practice of the work that matters most.

Your four fill-in-the-blank choices are:

*the best
*the most effective
*the most challenging
*the most rigorous 

Another fill-in-the-blank question included this language:

We revised the SAT using a robust research base and in partnership with high school teachers.

Their point-- the revised SAT will reflect the best instruction going on in classrooms, so taking the very best classes will be the very best preparation. Remember that point.

More language about the new test:

The {new/revised/etc} SAT will be based on the skills and knowledge that research shows to be essential for students' college and career readiness and success. These are the same skills and knowledge that teachers focus on today in the most effective classrooms.

David Coleman (architect of the language side of CCSS) is doing his best to lock down the very definition of what good teaching is. Good teaching is what the SAT measures, and the SAT measures good teaching. The word you're looking for is tautology.

All of this was pretty much expected, but there were two fun wrinkles additionally.

One is simply marketing. Language of another question indicates that the PSAT (which will "help students take advantage of the opportunities they have created through their hard work") will also now include access to APO Potential, a service that will tell students about the AP course "in which they would be likely to succeed." Yes, the PSAT (a College Board product) will now include marketing for AP courses (another College Board product).

The other surprise for me was in that 8th grade PPPPSAT. Language in a question described it as a tool for determining if your child is on track to be college-ready. 

Got that? Somebody thinks they have a test that can actually predict whether a thirteen year old is going to be successful in college or not. 

Remember how we always argue that comparing US education to other country's is unfair because other countries track their students into college and career paths from an early age? Apparently the College Board has figured out how to fix that.

The overall picture is the same one I've expected since Coleman moved to the College Board-- their testing programs will be one more attempt to lock all of US public education into the CCSS worldview. Do we need more tests, aligned in unproven ways to the unresearched standards? No, no we don't. But I don't think it will be too much longer before the College Board folks are doing their best to convince us otherwise. Given the growing blowback on CCSS in general and testing linked to it in particular, these could be interesting times. Get your seat early, because the emperor is about to bet the farm on a motorcycle ride in his new clothes.

1 comment:

  1. Um... since when did the SAT ever purport to measure "career readiness?" Since its inception its purported value has been to help predict first year college GPA (which it does relatively poorly). Does anybody seriously think they understand what "career readiness" means writ large (other than those 20th century education "standards" of show up on time, play by the rules, and know your place?)