David Coleman, the new president of the College Board, last year gave a speech (related to his prior position as co-leader of the effort to write the Common Core State Standards, and not serving at the College Board) in which he offered strong criticism of the SAT, The Washington Post reported. Coleman focused on an issue that has bothered other educators -- the way the SAT writing test doesn't judge whether students are making arguments that have a basis in facts. (This paragraph has been updated to correct an error about Coleman's position at the time of the remarks.)
Here's a portion of the transcript of the talk that the Post found at the Brookings Institution: "Right now, I think there’s a breakthrough that the SAT added writing, because we do want to make the claim that kids need to write to be ready. Like, duh, right. To be ready for college and career, it obviously includes writing. But I have a problem with the SAT writing. So if you look at the way the SAT assessment is designed, when you write an essay even if it’s an opinion piece, there’s no source information given to you. So in other words, you write like what you’re opinion is on a subject, but there’s no fact on the table. So a friend of mine tutors in Hong Kong, and she was asked by here Hong Kong students, where do you get the examples for the essay? She said, you know, it’s the American way, you make them up. Now I’m all for creativity and innovation, but I don’t think that’s quite the creativity we want to inspire in a generation of youth. That is, if writing is to be ready for the demands of career and college, it must be precise, it must be accurate, it must draw upon evidence. Now I think that is warranted by tons of information we see from surveys of college professors, from evidence we have from other sources, so I think there is good reason to think about a design of SAT where rather than kids just writing an essay, there’s source material that they’re analyzing."
He also criticized the selection of vocabulary for the SAT: "I think when you think about vocabulary on exams, you know, how SAT words are famous as the words you will never use again? You know, you study them in high school and you’re like, gosh, I’ve never seen this before, and I probably never shall. Why wouldn’t it be the opposite? Why wouldn’t you have a body of language on the SAT that’s the words you most need to know and be ready to use again and again? Words like transform, deliberate, hypothesis, right?"
Asked about those comments recently, Coleman told the Post that "I want to be careful to say in a clear voice that any changes in SAT require the team, the trustees, and our partners in higher education to agree. The real question is can we make a revision of SAT a victory for everyone – more aligned with what colleges need as well as better work for kids. I think we can."
Kathryn Napper is retiring as dean of undergraduate admissions at George Washington University, after 35 years of work at the institution and one month after the university admitted that, for at least a decade, it had been submitting incorrect data on the high school class rank of its students to U.S. News & World Report for its rankings. An internal announcement of Napper's retirement, effective this month, praised her "loyal and dedicated service," and made no mention of the recent scandal. Napper and GW officials declined to comment on any relationship between her departure and the incorrect rankings data.
In today’s Academic Minute, Jenny Stuber of the University of North Florida explains why students from different socioeconomic backgrounds experience college differently. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Roger Williams University has announced that it will no longer require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. "While we recognize that standardized tests accurately measure aptitude for many students, there are many others whose talents are not measured by such tests and they can serve as an artificial barrier to many highly qualified students, preventing them from even considering an RWU education," said a statement from the university.
The Common Application has been facing criticism from some high school counselors and college admissions officials over two changes being made: the elimination of a "free choice" essay topic, and an announcement that the essay maximum of 500 words will be strictly enforced. On Tuesday, the Common Application issued a letter defending the changes. The association said that applicants would have five essay prompts "that will allow students to thoughtfully and creatively write about themselves and their interests." The letter predicted that once the prompts are announced, people will see that applicants have plenty of options. On the length limit, the Common Application noted that colleges can (and some do) have applicants fill out supplemental forms, with essays of whatever length is acceptable to the colleges. The letter notes that Common Application members have varying ideas about essay length, but that some institutions lack the resources to review long essays or see longer essays as "a hurdle for applicants."