Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

In Indiana, Biggest SAT Question Remains Common Core Alignment

    On average, students in Indiana scored lower than their peers in other states on the SAT college entrance exam.

    Newton Free Library / Flickr

    The SAT is getting an overhaul in 2016. The test will also align with the Common Core academic standards.

    High school students will take a very different college entrance exam in two years when the company that administers the SAT rolls out a new test, reports Tamar Lewin for The New York Times:

    The changes coming to the exam are extensive: The SAT’s rarefied vocabulary words will be replaced by words that are common in college courses, such as “empirical” and “synthesis.” The math questions, now scattered widely across many topics, will focus more narrowly on linear equations, functions and proportional thinking. The use of a calculator will no longer be allowed on some of the math sections. The new exam will be available on paper and computer, and the scoring will revert to the old 1600 scale, with a top score of 800 on math and what will now be called “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.” The optional essay will have a separate score.

    Once the pre-eminent college admissions exam, the SAT has recently lost ground to the ACT, which is based more directly on high school curriculums and is now taken by a slightly higher number of students.

    The new SAT, to be introduced in the spring of 2016, will not quell all criticism of the standardized-test juggernaut. Critics have long pointed out — and [College Board President David] Coleman admits — that high school grades are a better predictor of college success than standardized test scores. A growing number of colleges have in recent years gone “test optional,” allowing students to forgo the tests and submit their grades, transcripts and perhaps a graded paper.

    But in Indiana, concerns about changes to the test’s format may be secondary to concerns about the test’s content.

    Both the SAT and the ACT are being retooled to align with the nationally-crafted Common Core expectations, which have adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. But it’s likely Indiana will become the first state to exit the initiative when the State Board considers new standards later this year.

    Representatives from both companies, however, have reassured Indiana lawmakers who want to leave the Common Core that the tests will remain relevant to Hoosier students.

    “I think the big question is, ‘If Indiana decides to completely get away from Common Core — and any undesirably elements of Common Core — would that put Indiana students at a disadvantage when they take the college entrance exams SAT or ACT?'” Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, told StateImpact earlier this year. “I asked that question of both representatives, and both of them said as long as Indiana has college- and career-ready standards, then we would not be putting Indiana kids at a disadvantage.”

    But as we’ve written before, the draft standards have drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle. Hoosiers Against Common Core says the proposed standards include too many of the nationally-crafted expectations Indiana is trying to replace. And Common Core proponents aren’t sure the new standards meet the definition of “college- and career-ready.”

    “It’s not a viable set of standards,” says Indiana Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Schauna Findlay, who reviewed the standards for the state’s pro-Common Core Chamber of Commerce. “Teachers will have to pick and choose what they’re going to include because they can’t go to the level of depth they need to with every standard.”

    In 2013, Indiana scores on the SAT slightly trailed the national average.


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