SAT scores drop, redesigned test to come [CT Post]

September 3, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Connecticut Post

More high school seniors in Connecticut took the SAT in 2015 than the year before, but their average scores were slightly lower.

Instead of emphasizing the bottom line, College Board President David Coleman focused on the larger, more diverse group of students taking the test. “It’s universal access,” he said. “It’s exciting,”

And the test is about to become even more widespread, with states like Connecticut, Michigan and New Hampshire planning to give the test to all high school juniors in place of a standardized end-of-year test.

The Connecticut General Assembly this year passed legislation to swap an SAT-like test for the Smarter Balanced Assessment linked to the Common Core curriculum. The move was intended in part to relief juniors from test overload. The U.S. Department of Education gave its blessing to the plan to use the SAT last month.

Next year, all Connecticut high school juniors will be given the test during regular school hours at no cost to test-takers, but the test they will take will be a redesigned SAT.

A 2006 redesign added a third section to the test, an essay portion that students complained made the SAT too long. That, plus the fact that a growing number of colleges have made SATs optional, led the College Board to give the test another makeover.

The new test debuts in March. It will still have three sections but the essay will be optional and scored separately. The score scale without the essay will revert to 1600 from 2,400. Many colleges already ignore the score for the essay portion of the exam.

Coleman said the new test will be tied to classroom instruction and will emphasize what students need to know to do well in college.

Officials from the College Board, which administered the test to some 1.7 million seniors nationwide this spring, said students who score at least 1,550 are deemed to be college and career ready.

But only about 42 percent of students nationwide — some 712,000 students — reached that goal, said Cyndie Schmeiser, head of assessment for the College board.

Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, said the latest SAT results speak to the failure of the federal government’s “No Child Left Behind” policies that promoted teaching to the test and not to learn. Since 2006, the only group to see an increase in scores, he said have been Asian students. The track record is no better for the ACT, another college readiness test.

While Schaeffer points to the growing number of colleges that have have dropped ACT/SAT requirements, Coleman points to the growing number of states giving the SAT to all high students.

That, he said, will make more students put college on their radar screens.

When Maine started giving the SAT to all students, they saw a 10 percentage point increase in the number of students going to four year colleges, Coleman said.

And whether scores go up and down on next year’s SATs in the state, students and parents at least stand to find out how they did much sooner. College Board officials promise students will know by may the results of tests taken in March.

State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said year to year fluctuations are to be expected depending on who sits down to take the test each year.

“I am encouraged and pleased that in the future all 11th grade students in Connecticut will have the opportunity to take the new SAT in place of the SBAC test and have it count toward a college entrance exam,” Boucher said. “In the future, these tests should be of value to educators as benchmarks for their students”.

It remains unclear how much Connecticut will pay the College Board to give the test and how it will determine what a passing grade will be. On Thursday, state officials focused there comments on AP results, which are also a College Board product and which also came out today. More students are taking them and more are scoring a ‘3’ which is considered passing.

The state’s public school SAT scores, meanwhile, were three points lower in math than the national average. A total of 29,802 public school students, approximately 85 percent of the state’s graduating class of 2015, took the SAT—a 0.4 percent increase over the class of 2014.