By: Melhor Marie Leonor | Posted: 6:00 AM, Feb 8, 2015 3:55 AM
It’s not the only new test high schoolers will face, but with the rollout of a revamped SAT next spring, the stakes will be high — like getting into college and qualifying for financial aid.
A new version of the SAT will be delivered to testing rooms across the U.S. by spring 2016, and students, teachers and tutors are looking ahead to an overhaul of one of two college entrance exams.
Meant to align the test with what students are learning in the classroom, the new exam will replace one that has “become disconnected from the work of our high schools,” said David Coleman, president of the College Board, which administers the SAT.
Though the College Board has been mindful to keep the controversial words “Common Core” out of the rollout campaign, educators say the new test reflects the standards adopted by 46 states in recent years.
And perhaps it’s no surprise: Coleman, College Board’s president, was a leader in the creation of the Common Core. In 2007, he founded Student Achievement Partners, which spearheaded the creation of standards for math and literacy. He left the nonprofit for the College Board in late 2012.
The redesign also brings the SAT closer to the ACT, which has trumped the SAT as the more popular test in recent years.
In Collier County, 58 percent of seniors took the SAT compared to 72 percent who took the ACT. Some students take both, looking for a high score in either exam.
The new SAT reading section will eliminate “obscure words,” and will require students to support their answers by directly citing parts of the provided passages.
“Before, a lot of the questions were related to tone, the narrator’s perspective, the overall goal of the passage. Now, it will be far more detailed. We’re going to have show students how to really dissect the text,” said David Greenberg, an academic adviser at Parliament Tutors in Fort Myers.
The new math portion will narrow the study areas students are tested in, and will include questions posed as real-world examples.
The “evidence-based” approach is common to both the new SAT and the Common Core standards. In the Math section, test developers cite a study that aligns Common Core standards in math with career readiness as the basis for the redesigned test.
“The old test wasn’t as aligned to the curriculum. The SAT is responding to the changes we’re making in the classroom,” said Irene Benfatti, who coordinates advanced studies for the Collier school district.
The Practice SAT, or PSAT, will be rolled out in October. Students and teachers can look at samples questions on College Board’s website. More materials will be released throughout the spring and summer.
The new version will bring no penalty for wrong answers and shorter testing time. There will also be computerized and paper versions of the test.
The writing portion of the exam will become optional, but in Florida, the state requires public universities to ask for the writing score.
“That may change after the new exam is released, but it’ll stay for the time being,” said Marc Laviolette, director of Admissions for Florida Gulf Coast University.
Most 12th graders take the exam for the last time in the fall of their senior year, when college applications are typically due. The springtime rollout is meant to minimize the number of students preparing for two different versions of the test.
For years, critics have argued that the SAT, combined with the multibillion dollar test prep industry, have fueled a widening of the achievement gap. Anxious about their children’s performance and what it will mean for their futures, parents who can enroll their students in private tutoring.
At Parliament Tutors, a national private tutoring provider, a package that includes 24 hours of private SAT tutoring costs roughly $2,000.
Coleman has taken shots at private test prep providers, saying that the College Board “cannot stand by while some test-preparation providers intimidate parents at all levels of income into the belief that the only way they can secure their child’s success is to pay for costly test preparation and coaching.”
Along with the new test, the College Board has partnered with Khan Academy, an educational nonprofit most known for their massive open online courses, to provide free, online SAT tutoring.
Deborah Mandell, founder and president of A Plus Skills Tutoring in Naples, says her business will be fine.
“Students wanting to get the highest scores will still go for something extra,” said Mandell, who has started preparing her tutors to transition to the new exam.
Mandell added that SAT scores aren’t used in a vacuum, but rather in comparison to the scores of other students with the same goals.
In effect, the competition aspect of the test will continue to drive business.
“There’s always going to be the pressure to get a competitive edge in college admissions,” Greenberg said.
With the changes, admissions officers evaluating applications hope that the scores become an improved measure of a student’s readiness for college, as the College Board claims the new exam will do.
“We’ll take them at their word for now, but it’ll take a couple years to see concrete results in the data,” said FGCU’s Laviolette.