Wednesday, October 8, 2014

SAT: Going Nowhere Fast

The latest news from the College Board folks has been widely published since being released (see here and here). The lede in most cases is that SAT performance is flat, followed by breathless concern that not enough students are taking advantage of opportunities to be college and career ready (which seems to mean, generally, that they aren't consuming enough of the College Board product line).

Three thoughts here:

One. What other corporation in America does such a good job spinning its marketing reports as legitimate news?

Seriously. If Ford has a drop in sales, they don't manage to get writers across America to wax rhapsodic about the state of automotive transportation, or decry the gap that leaves so many people without a vehicle. And they certainly don't get writers to talk about Ford as if it were the only company producing cars.

But somehow every time the College Board makes another bid for more market share, it's treated as a referendum on the State of American Education. I'll give David Coleman this-- he and his people sure know how to sell shit.

Two. Do you mean to tell me that after the years of Common Core high stakes corporate education reformster baloney, SAT scores haven't gone up??!! Are you saying that a product which markets itself as the premiere arbiter of college readiness says that our students are no more college ready than they used to be? You mean to say that Common Core didn't fix everything??!! I'm shocked. Shocked!!

It's particularly notable that coverage has studiously avoided mentioning that David Coleman, College Board Head Honcho, is also David Coleman, Common Core Architect. In fine government-revolving-door style he has positioned himself to profit from his own regulatory work, and yet, nothing has budged. Both the test results and the SAT market share are stuck.

Three. Corporate baloney. Cyndie Schmeiser, College Board chief of assessment, declares the low performance level "a critically low level" that cannot be tolerated. The whole release this time ties together all the College Board products, with reports on the PSAT and AP classes.

Why put it all together? Nick Anderson at the Washington Post suggests that the College Board is trying to transfer some of the sheen of their better-performing products onto the flailing and failing SAT, which is now the nation's number TWO college entrance exam (though you would not know that from any of the "coverage" we're seeing).

This fits the CB overall plan, which has featured ideas like using PSATs to generate AP "recommendations" sent directly to parents to try to create some market pressure. Coleman repeats his mantra that we don't need more tests-- we need more opportunities. And by "opportunities" we mean "opportunities to give the College Board money."

It reminds me that David Coleman's College Board career is an odd second act, his previous work writ small. Pretend to be trying to launch a movement rooted in social justice and educational opportunity when you're really just a corporate marketer, shilling for a product and a profit.

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