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David Coleman, the new president of the College Board, the nonprofit that owns the SAT college admissions exam, announced on February 25 in an e-mail to the organization’s members that the test will be redesigned in “an ambitious effort” to more comprehensively address “the core set of knowledge and skills” that are most important to success in college.

Mr. Coleman was a co-author of the Common Core Standards and stated shortly after taking the post that he had concerns about the relevance of some parts of the SAT to students’ lives. So it’s perhaps not surprising that he is beginning to move forward with plans to make key changes. His letter to members states, in part:

In the months ahead, the College Board will begin an effort in collaboration with its membership to redesign the SAT so that it better meets the needs of students, schools, and colleges at all levels. We will develop an assessment that mirrors the work that students will do in college so that they will practice the work they need to do to complete college. An improved SAT will strongly focus on the core knowledge and skills that evidence shows are most important to prepare students for the rigors of college and career.

No specific changes or timeframes for new versions have yet been announced. However, Mr. Coleman in his e-mail described “three broad objectives that will drive our work” on redesigning the SAT:

  1. Increase the value of the SAT to students by focusing on a core skill set that is key to college and career success, so that preparing for the SAT in effect helps prepare students for college.
  2. Improve how well the SAT meets the needs of admissions offers and others who are using the test to help determine who they will admit to their institutions.
  3. “Strengthen the alignment of the SAT to college and career readiness,” so that it is more relevant to teachers, counselors, administrators and others in the US educational system who are trying to not only improve curriculum and instruction, but also to guide students around college and career readiness.

The stated goals of the SAT are to “democratize access to higher education for all students,” as well to measure preparedness for college and a predictor of success in college. As such, it is aligned to the Common Core standards, yet is also subject to revision to keep up with changes in the needs of the marketplace.

The SAT was last modified in 2005, when at essay question was added. At that time analogies were eliminated, because it was determined that they didn’t reflect modern high school curricula. The math section was expanded to align better with typical high school Algebra II type courses and the total possible score raised from 1600 to 2400.

Overall, based on comments I saw online it seemed that university officials and students viewed the broad-brush changes positively. The College Board plans to hold meetings throughout the nation to solicit input on the SAT’s redesign.

In my next post to this blog I’ll dig into why the ACT might be overtaking the SAT in terms of popularity with students.

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