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ASSESSMENT : LEARNING :: SCALE : WEIGHT College Board Announces Plans to Change SAT Exam

Remember those word analogies that caused stress and confusion when taking the SAT, the country’s most widely used college entrance examination? Last month, the College Board, publishers of the SAT, announced that beginning in 2005, the analogies will be eliminated, along with quantitative comparisons, in an effort to assess more accurately what students actually learn in high school. In addition, the new exam will include a written essay, multiple-choice grammar questions, and questions focused on high-level math skills.

Prodded by the University of California system, which threatened to drop the SAT due to its lack of alignment with high school and college curricula, the College Board’s announcement elicited both praise and criticism. The new SAT should have a positive impact on schools, especially those that serve poor and minority students. Previously, schools could make the case that the SAT measured innate skill, not student learning, and therefore the schools could not be held accountable. With the new SAT that case will be harder to make. Schools will have to respond by helping students become better writers, readers, and mathematicians in order to help them succeed on the SAT and, ultimately, in college. Moreover, the new SAT reinforces the idea for students that school does matter, and that lessons learned through hard work are applicable after they graduate.

Critics argue that the new SAT will not measure student learning any more accurately than the current model or any other standardized test. They also argue that the increased rigor of the new SAT will further advantage white and wealthy students, who consistently score higher on the current SAT and who have more access to good schools and expensive tutoring than minority and poor students.

To read more about the new SAT visit the College Board Web site.

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