“The details of the redesign aren’t public yet, but it looks like the result will be similar to the last time: Several cosmetic changes will raise the anxiety of students and their parents but will likely fail to address the deepest problem with the test or even make it worse. This is good news for people like me, who make a living as an SAT tutor, but bad news for everybody else.
“When the redesigned SAT premiered after several years of planning in 2005, there were two major changes, one to content and another to structure. The old Math and Verbal (renamed Critical Reading) sections were joined by a Writing section, which includes an essay assignment that asks test takers to “develop a point of view on an issue,” such as, “Should we question the decisions made by figures of authority?” or “Can success be a disaster?” And, as a result of adding Writing to the test, the total length of the test increased by 25 percent, the number of sections went from seven to ten, sections were shortened, and the number of questions in the Math and Reading Sections went down, making each question more valuable as a percentage of the available points while increasing the fatigue factor on the exam, as College Board’s own researchers acknowledged.
“The essay has provoked many criticisms (here, here, and here), but the loudest critic of the essay these days is David Coleman, the president of the College Board, which administers the SAT. Coleman was the lead architect of the Common Core State Standards, which now shape the English Language Arts and Math curriculums in public primary and secondary schools in 45 states. He’s been praised by Arne Duncan, Bill Clinton, Time magazine, and others as a champion of academic reform. He has now turned his attention to fixing the essay section of the SAT.
“Speaking to the National Association for College Admission Counseling a few weeks ago, Coleman bemoaned the fact that SAT graders paid no attention to the accuracy of an essay’s claims in scoring it. He seemed particularly dismayed that a friend of his who tutors in Hong Kong goes so far as to advise her students to fabricate essay examples. When he recounted this same anecdote last year at the Brookings Institution, he elaborated, “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.”