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May 17, 2012 5:12 PM The New SAT?

By Daniel Luzer

The new president of the College Board, David Coleman, has announced that one of his top priorities in his new job—as head of the organization that administers the SAT and other standardized tests—will be to try to change the SAT to reflect the Common Core State Standards.

Common Core, a national education initiative pushed by American governors and corporate leaders, aims to bring all state K-12 school standards into alignment and also be “robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.” Most states, 45 of them, have signed on to Common Core.

Coleman, a Rhodes scholar and former McKinsey consultant, is an architect of and major advocate for the standards.

According to an article by Catherine Gewertz in Education Week:

Mr. Coleman’s hope of reworking the SAT could play a role in moving the standards from a set of guidelines used in college course placement to one considered in college admissions. That, to Mr. Coleman, goes to the heart of the standards’ intention.
“The common core provides substantial opportunity to make the SAT even more reflective of what higher education wants,” he said in an interview. “The real value here is that if the SAT aligns more to the common core, we won’t be giving an assessment at the end of K-12 that’s out of kilter with what we demand at the end of the day. All that does is encourage last-minute test preparation and sudden adaptation. The instrument should measure the steady practice of the work you’ve been doing.”
He noted, though, that since the College Board is a membership organization that includes K-12 and higher education, any change in the exam would be done “in partnership” with that membership base and would have to be executed gradually to preserve the validity of test results over time.

It’s unclear how Coleman believes changing the SAT to reflect Common Core Standards, which would entail focusing more on students’ ability to cite evidence and demonstrate conceptual understanding of their high school subject matter, would actually improve educational quality in the United States.

The SATs were created in early 20th century to do in many ways the very opposite of what Coleman proposes, notably to measure student capability in a way that wasn’t specifically connected to their socioeconomic background or the quality of their high school education. The SAT was supposed to predict first-year college grades.

It’s never really been very good at that, since it’s basically just a measure of student intelligence, but the SAT remains the most objective measure colleges have come to use for making admissions decisions.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer