Indoctrination in the SAT

David Coleman announces the SAT redesign.

Parents have been complaining about a question on the SAT their children took recently.

Two parents reported a question about a speech given by Bernie Sanders that was asked on the SAT. 

The first parent asked on social media: 

1) Why was there an Essay Question on my daughter’s SAT test asking her to explain why Bernie Sanders speech was effective?? 

Regardless of any political beliefs this is underhanded and just wrong.

2) The whole country takes mandatory SAT’s yesterday and my daughter was one of them….she told me that the last question was critiquing a speech that Bernie Sanders made on not privatizing the post offices. His arguments/opinions put out there without any opposing views. 

It’s a good time to remind you that David Coleman, one of the Chief Architects of the Common Core Standards, is now the President of the College Board. Since he was elevated to this position there has been much controversy surrounding the SAT/ACT and Advanced Placement Program. 

Coleman came under fire after the testing organization used the tragedy of the Parkland school shootings to promote the Advanced Placement Program

When Coleman spoke about redesigning the SAT he came under scrutiny when he quickly moved to align the SAT to the Common Core Standards.

The College Board moved to revise its AP U.S. History (APUSH) with an ideologically slanted framework. This moved resulted in calls to break the College Board’s testing monopoly. Politicizing U.S. History was not going to happen without controversy or a fight.

One of the ways to indoctrinate children with biased political views is, through standardized testing.  In New Hampshire, it is state law that the SAT must be used to test children in 11th grade.  This was signed into law after the Smarter Balanced Assessment created a whirlwind of controversy several years ago. As one wise parent pointed out this, when he looked at the question:

Notice how the question is couched. It’s sort of like asking, “Explain why Hillary Clinton isn’t President even though she deserved to win.” It’s an opinion framed as a fact. 

The problem isn’t that they included a speech from a political candidate. The problem is that they presented opinion as fact. It’s called a “mind virus.

When the College Board hired a political operative as their President, that brought with it the possibility of more politicization and indoctrination through the assessments and AP courses. It appears as if that’s where Coleman has taken this organization.

That might be why more and more colleges no longer consider the SAT in their admissions process.  According to “More than 1000 four-year colleges and universities do not use the SAT or ACT to admit substantial numbers of bachelor-degree applicants.”

This kind of political indoctrination does not help public education. Parents need to fight for quality education, not indoctrination.  Illiteracy is nothing to cheer about and the more this becomes acceptable, the more chances we have of dumbing down our public schools. 

Common Core Collaborators

Photo Credit: J. Sanna (CC-By-2.0)

Richard P. Phelps at the Nonpartisan Education Review provides an excellent resource. They offer five articles that provide a historical, financial and media analyses of the organization that spawned the Common Core State Standards, the two copyright holders, two of the paid proselytizers, and the delivery vehicle, where the reputed Common Core architect, David Coleman, now runs things where Phelps says he earns an annual salary of well over million dollars.

Here are the links to each article:

David Coleman’s SAT Fail

David Coleman announces the SAT redesign.

Reuters just released an investigative report that does not paint David Coleman, architect of the Common Core ELA standards and now CEO of the College Board, in a very good light.

In a nutshell his decision to rush a new “top to bottom” redo of the SAT college entrance exam has been a disaster. Reuters writes:

Internal documents reviewed by Reuters show pitched battles over his timeline to create the new test and whether the push to meet the deadline could backfire.

The documents, which include memos, emails and presentations, reveal persistent concerns that aligning the redesigned SAT with the Common Core would disadvantage students in states that rejected the standards or were slow to absorb them. The materials also indicate that Coleman’s own decisions delayed the organization’s effort to offer a digital version of the exam.

Today, less than a year after the new SAT debuted, the College Board continues to struggle with the consequences of Coleman’s crash course to remake the SAT and its companion, the PSAT, a junior version of the exam.

“It was a bad year, and I’m sorry,” Coleman said in September, at a conference of university admissions officers and high school counselors. “It is no good to have vision if you don’t deliver.”

As Reuters reported in March, the College Board has struggled to stop cheating rings in Asia that exploit security weaknesses in the SAT and enable some students to gain unfair advantages on the exam. A massive security breach earlier this year exposed about 400 questions for upcoming SATs. And College Board officials went forward with the redesigned test even though they knew it was overloaded with wordy math questions, a problem that handicaps non-native English speakers and reinforces race and income disparities that Coleman has vowed to diminish.

Read the whole thing.

The Destructive Capacity of David Coleman

David Coleman announces the SAT redesign.

David Coleman announces the SAT redesign.

Since Common Core architect David Coleman took over as president of the College Board, the scandals or at least embarrassments have come fast and furious (see here and here). The latest is a Reuters investigation, reported by EdWeek, that discovered the College Board’s vaunted redesign of the SAT math section erects even more hurdles to students who traditionally score lower anyway (low-income and minority students). This is because the new math section focuses more on reading than actually working math problems, so a student who is good at math but less so at reading will score lower on math than he would have under the traditional SAT design.

The problem is the new SAT’s alignment with the Common Core national standards. The Common Core math standards are based on the idea that knowing math is insufficient; a student must be able to read a tome and apply math skills to the supposed “real-life” problem it presents. (The engineers who brought the Apollo 13 astronauts home on a crippled spacecraft somehow managed to apply their antiquated math education to a real-world problem, but pay no attention to that.) While the text-heavy approach may work for strong readers, turning a math test into a reading test creates unnecessary problems for students who traditionally don’t score as well on the SAT anyway.

From reviewing internal emails, Reuters discovered that College Board officials “knew of the potential problem with the word-heavy math questions because outside academics raised the issue as they reviewed items while they were being developed.” And in a confidential 2014 test run, only about half the students even finished the math section.

Maybe Coleman and Co. intended to correct the problem, but apparently they never got around to it. Or maybe they’re so invested in the Common Core ideology of “deeper conceptual understanding” that they simply don’t care.

So assume the situation of an immigrant student (call him Carlos) whose family speaks Spanish at home. Assume he’s a math whiz but still struggles with English, because he’s been in the country only five or six years. With the old SAT he might have performed poorly on the verbal portion but scored an 800 on the math. With the new test, he’ll perform poorly on both. Well done, Mr. Coleman.

Not only will Carlos suffer from this ideological redesign, but his school may as well. This is because the new fed-ed bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act, allows states to replace their high-school achievement tests with the SAT. The ramifications of the redesign are thus troubling both for Carlos and for honest accountability for schools.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky raised a related concern years ago about Common Core math, in that case with respect to children in the early grades. Since Common Core applies the word-heavy approach across K-12, young children are also expected to read paragraphs rather than simply grasp math calculations. This means, Dr. Stotsky warned, that many little boys might struggle with math even if they have a gift for numbers – because little boys are generally less verbal than little girls. Johnny might be proud that he can work math problems more quickly than anyone in the class, but don’t worry, Common Core will beat that sense of accomplishment out of him.

Common Core theorists call this “productive struggle.” Normal people might call it academic malpractice. By all means, let’s extend it to teenagers as well.

The Common Core realignment of the SAT math section will hurt low-income students in other ways. In a Pioneer Institute report, mathematician James Milgram and testing expert Richard Phelps explained that aligning the SAT with Common Core essentially converts it from a test predicting college success to one that simply measures high-school achievement. These experts pointed out that an achievement test is less effective at identifying students with significant STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) potential who attend schools with inferior science and math programs. And the Common Core math standards – which stop with an incomplete Algebra II course – will ensure that many schools, especially those serving low-income students, will have such inferior programs.

Michael Cohen, a prominent developer of and cheerleader for Common Core, testified several years ago that we won’t know the full effects of Common Core “until an entire cohort of students, from kindergarten through high school graduation, has been effectively exposed to Common Core teaching.” Having already lowered national test scores, increased the achievement gap, driven excellent teachers out of the profession, and now wrecked the SAT, it looks like Common Core is ahead of schedule. Mr. Cohen underestimated the destructive capacity of Mr. Coleman.

Maggie Hassan Trades One Crap Sandwich for Another

new-hampshire-flagNew Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan signed HB 323 into law which allows individual school districts replace Smarter Balanced with the College Board’s SAT.


You know the same SAT that David Coleman has ruined and one-in-four school counselors say to avoid.

The Conway Daily Sun reports that local school officials are excited to eat this new crap sandwich.

“It’s great news,” Kennett High Principal Neal Moylan — who mailed and emailed a letter urging Hassan to sign the bill Monday — said by phone Wednesday.

“I think it’s a great thing for kids and for families.”

Superintendent Kevin Richard called the signing “wonderful news.”

Moylan said the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing, used for the first time this school year as part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, was disruptive to the student body, had no buy-in for students and led to test fatigue. He shared his concerns with the Conway School Board on Monday night, prompting the board to send a letter of its own on Tuesday to the governor’s office.

The only good thing is that it is one less test for juniors to take.  Personally though I’ve never been a fan of the SAT.  It seemed pretty ridiculous to me to gauge college readiness on just two subjects.

David Coleman Drives College Board Into The Ground

David Coleman announces the SAT redesign.

David Coleman announces the SAT redesign.

It seems like the College Board is imploding under David Coleman’s tenure.  Since Coleman’s tenure with the College Board began they have been faced with one controversy after another that is largely of Coleman’s making.

They are currently facing a three class action lawsuits which probably has nothing to do with him, but the buck stops at the top.

Valarie Strauss has a nice summary.

The College Board, which owns the SAT, was forced to discard two of 10 sections of the SAT administered June 6 — or 22 percent of the test — because of printing errors on test booklets. Students discovered that the time allotted for one section, the last reading section, said 25 minutes rather than the 20 minutes that they were supposed to have.  Because of the way the test is administered, some students were taking the final math section at the same time as some were taking the reading section with the misprinted timing instruction, and some test-takers were allowed more time than others by exam proctors.

The College Board’s solution was to toss out two sections and offer any June 6 test-taker a chance to retake the test at its next administration, on Oct. 3, 2015, for free. College Board officials have said students’ scores would be as reliable as if the entire test had been graded because the SAT is designed to collect enough information even if the entire test is not scored.

Many students aren’t buying the College Board’s explanation. According to the Courthouse News Service, three class-action lawsuits have been filed against the College Board and the Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT, seeking a test fee refund as well as money for damages. The lawsuits were filed in Trenton, N.J., Jacksonville, Fla., and Long Island, N.Y.

Read the rest.  This isn’t the only controversy to befall Coleman’s College Board.  There have been complaints about the SAT changes that will align it to Common Core.  One in four guidance counselors are actually encouraging their students not to take the newly designed SAT that will roll out in March of 2016.  Then there is the whole mess with the A.P. U.S. History Framework.

How does this guy still have a job?

One in Four School Counselors Say Avoid Redesigned SAT

David Coleman announces the SAT redesign.

David Coleman announces the SAT redesign.

David Coleman is continuing the march toward aligning the SAT with the Common Core.  Politico yesterday reported that a growing number of school counselors do not want to follow.  24% of counselors say students should either ditch the test or take it before the changes take effect.

Upcoming changes to the SAT are affecting the advice that high school counselors are giving students now about college admissions exams, a Kaplan Test Prep Survey finds. About one-third of counselors think students should take more than one test (the current SAT, the new SAT and the ACT) so they can figure out which exam will most help them get into their choice colleges. Sixteen percent of counselors say students should ditch the SAT entirely and go with the ACT. About 6 percent of counselors are telling students to take the SAT early to avoid changes to the test, []  due out in March 2016. And another 6 percent are telling students to delay taking the test until the changes take effect.

ACT at the moment has not aligned to Common Core so that may be a better college entrance exam alternative.

U.S. History Instruction Damaged By Common Core Literacy Standards

image(Boston, MA) A new study authored by a Founding-era historian, a content expert, and a high school history teacher with standards-writing experience finds that the Common Core will further damage history instruction by including U.S. History in its English language arts (ELA) standards.

Imperiling the Republic: The Fate of U.S. History Instruction under Common Core,” published by Pioneer Institute, analyzes literacy standards for U.S. History that are included as part of Common Core’s English language arts standards.

“Common Core dramatically reduces the amount of classic American literature and poetry students will read in favor of non-fiction or so-called ‘informational texts,'” said co-author Sandra Stotsky who sat on the Common Core State Standards ELA validation committee.  “Consequently, the writers of the national standards attempted to shoehorn little bits and pieces of decontextualized U.S. History texts into the English standards. The simultaneous result damages instruction for both English and U.S. History classrooms.”

The co-authors of the Pioneer paper urge schools to instead offer separate standards and classes for English and U.S. History.  There is little, if any, research to support the efficacy of English teachers being expected to teach U.S. History or informational texts.

Common Core’s standards writers also call for the “cold reading” of historical documents without any background knowledge to place them in the appropriate historical context.  David Coleman, the principal author of the Common Core ELA standards, says that excluding texts’ historical context helps “level the playing field.”

Coleman is now president of the College Board, which has issued a new Advanced Placement (A.P.) U.S. History curriculum.  The College Board’s A.P. curriculum is a continuation of the “progressive education” approach, which took hold after World War II, that limits history instruction and replaces it with social studies courses about current events and problems.

The College Board’s new A.P. U.S. History curriculum also mirrors the ideological biases of progressive education.  It begins with a series of negative and divisive themes that are heavily focused on the balkanizing formation of gender, class, racial, and ethnic identity politics.

“It’s like the bad and the ugly of American history, without any of the good,” said co-author Anders Lewis who teaches history and heads the art and history department at the Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

For example, there are no themes on federalism, separation of powers, the Federalist Papers, or the Gettysburg Address.  The curriculum doesn’t ask teachers to teach about Benjamin Franklin and contains no mention of Thomas Jefferson or James Madison.  The events of September 11, 2001 are never referred to as a terrorist attack.

“Federalism as an essential principle of American government stands as the creative organizing concept that allows the fulfillment of the basic ideals of republicanism, liberty, and the public good,” said Founding-era historian and co-author Ralph Ketcham who is professor emeritus in History, Public Affairs, and Political Science at Syracuse University.. “Any set of K-12 standards or curriculum that sidesteps or excludes this constitutional and civic reality damages students’ understanding of our republic and its history.”

The co-authors recommend that local education governing bodies replace the College Board’s new A.P. U.S. History curriculum with the common civic core spelled out in Educating Democracy, which was published in 2003 by the Albert Shanker Institute.

Progressive education in general and its move away from teaching history have produced poor results. By 2010, only 12 percent of high school seniors scored proficient on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) civics tests.  NAEP has since eliminated the 4th and 12th grade civics tests.

The Common Core Needs Unicorns and Rainbows

I had to shake my head reading a piece by Stephanie Simon at Politico entitled “Moms winning the Common Core war.”  The first statement that jumped out at me.

But in a series of strategy sessions in recent months, top promoters of the standards have concluded they’re losing the broader public debate — and need to devise better PR.

Hello Bill Gates, Fordham Institute, David Coleman, Jeb Bush, et al… your problem isn’t your PR.  Your problem is subpar standards.

How tone deaf can one be?

So how to tackle the problem?  More Gates money!!!!!

So, backed with fresh funding from philanthropic supporters, including a $10.3 million grant awarded in May from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, supporters are gearing up for a major reboot of the Common Core campaign.

“We’ve been fighting emotion with talking points, and it doesn’t work,” said Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Fordham Institute, a leading supporter of the standards. “There’s got to be a way to get more emotional with our arguments if we want to win this thing. That means we have a lot more work to do.”

I’m trying to picture how being more emotional will work for them.  Maybe they can have rallies with businessmen from the Chamber of Commerce holding signs saying “Test Our Children,” “We Need More Rigor,” “I Need My Employees to be College and Career Ready,” or “High Stakes Testing is the Answer.”

I’m sure that’ll work.

Maybe Bill Gates can shed some tears during his next interview.

Perhaps they can resort to the argument “it’s for the children” and have video of kids in different states of intellectual atrophy pleading for “more rigorous standards.”

They better set up a 1-800 line for all of the calls that are sure to pour in.

But I digress, Simon shares the steps.

Step 1 – “Get Americans angry about the current state of public education.”

News flash we already are, and we don’t see Common Core as the answer.

Step 2 – “Get voters excited about the prospects of change.”

Share teacher testimonies… have students share about how the Common Core has changed their life.

Good luck finding those students.

Advocates answer to this “war” is not better standards, but better propaganda.

Then social media… advocates are jealous – “why can’t we have our own trending hashtag on Twitter?”

And in lockstep with Petrilli another advocate says they need a heart message.

“The Common Core message so far has been a head message. We’ve done a good job talking about facts and figures. But we need to move 18 inches south and start talking about a heart message,” said Wes Farno, executive director of the Higher State Standards Partnership, a coalition supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.

What facts and figures?  That is one of the primary problems with the Common Core is that it lacks data and evidence!

They just need better talking points!

Indeed, some of the talking points crafted to win over Republican lawmakers seemed likely to backfire with moms and dads, such as when Billy Canary, president of the Business Council of Alabama, referred to children as “the product created by our education system” and said businesses need schools to start turning out better product.

They need better websites!

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is working on an animated website that will pay homage to the playful spirit of children and link the Common Core to that kind of creativity. Vice President Cheryl Oldham boasts that there won’t be a single data point on the site; it’s designed to prompt a visceral, not an intellectual, response.

They need better star power!

The pro-Common Core side lacks the star power of the opposition, which has been boosted not just by Beck and Malkin but by comedians like Stephen Colbert and Louis C.K. Former NBA star Isiah Thomas wrote an op-ed supporting the standards, and foundations set up by the actress Eva Longoria and singer John Legend helped fund a pro-Common Core TV ad that ran on Fox News this spring, but none of the three has taken on a highly visible role.

I know what they really need are pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows.  Put that on a website and then promote it with the hashtag #UnicornsLoveCommonCore.  Perhaps have the Care Bears do a PSA that’ll turn this thing around.  I’m sure of it, I mean you have millions of Gates money poured into this.  How could it possibly fail?

This Common Core Critic Is Still Charged Up

On April 14, American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess and Mike McShane charged me in a blog on National Review Online with not coming up with “next steps” to “repeal and replace” for states that want to restore academic integrity to their K-12 curriculum in English language arts and mathematics. I’m almost but not quite exhausted from all the next steps I’ve taken, especially in Indiana.

Two years ago I crafted an updated set of English language arts standards based on the set I helped develop in Massachusetts in 1997. This set of standards, copyright-free and cost-free, has been available for districts and states to use in place of Common Core’s standards since May 2013. The document is on the website of the Association for Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers.


Here’s how they are described in an introduction to the document by John Briggs, an English professor at the University of California, Riverside and current ALSCW president: “The role of literature and the literary imagination in K-12 education is of particular concern to the ALSCW. The … carefully articulated and detailed set of English Language Arts standards prepared by Sandra Stotsky… will contribute to the national conversation by emphasizing the importance of literary study in the education of the young.”

Far from being so obscure that few know about this document, it was listed in the recently released Indiana standards document as one of the resources the standards-drafting committee referred to. Nothing in my document was used, of course, but not for the reason Hess and McShane cook up. That the standards-drafting and evaluation committees came up with an imitation of Common Core is not because Common Core was the “default” position for educators under a “tight timeline.” It was because a warmed-over version of Common Core was the goal set for the committees established by Governor Mike Pence’s education policy director, Claire Fiddian-Green, and the Indiana Department of Education staffer co-directing the project with her, Molly Chamberlin.

Fiddian-Green came to her position from being director of the Indiana Charter School Board, with a master’s degree in business administration from Columbia University and undergraduate majors in political science and Russian studies at Brown University. Sterling academic credentials, but no teaching experience in K-12, it seems, and apparently little if any knowledge of English language arts and mathematics.

What makes it clear that an imitation of Common Core was the goal of this project is the content of the drafts, starting with the public comment draft (Draft #1) released in February. It was so like Common Core that it evoked a storm of public criticism for its resemblance. I declined Governor Pence’s request to review that document, making it clear that there was no point in my reviewing Common Core yet another time. Fiddian-Green promised me that the next draft would be significantly different and, in response to another request from Gov. Pence, I agreed to review Draft #2 if it was not warmed-over Common Core.

On March 14, I was sent Draft #2. It was almost identical to Draft #1 in grades 6-12. I wrote back immediately asking Fiddian-Green and Chamberlin if I had been sent the wrong file. No, I hadn’t. On March 17, Fiddian-Green sent me the fruits of their week-end analysis: 93% of the standards in ELA in grades 6-12 were Common Core’s, most verbatim. I wrote to Gov. Pence that day saying I wouldn’t review that cut-and-paste job, either, but would send him a report from two workshops on Draft #2 that I would hold at a conference of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers, serendipitously to take place in Bloomington, Indiana, on April 4 and 5.

My purpose was to give the governor, Fiddian-Green, and Chamberlin whatever suggestions came out of workshops attended by literary scholars and local high school English teachers. I invited Fiddian-Green, Chamberlin, and indeed the entire staff of the Indiana Department of Education to participate in the workshops. None came. But four local English teachers did, as did over 20 literary scholars at the conference.

I sent the report containing their many suggestions for revising grades 6-12 in Draft #2  (readers must remember this draft was mainly Common Core, which they all thought was pretty awful) to Gov. Pence, Fiddian-Green, and others on April 8. Not one suggestion made its way into the final draft released on April 14 (Draft #3). In retrospect, it is clear that Draft #3 had to look like Common Core to satisfy Jeb Bush, the Gates Foundation, and the USDE, but it also had to look somewhat different to justify all the thousands of hours Fiddian-Green claimed the committees had spent on this job. How much this game of pretense cost Indiana taxpayers we may never know.

Remember that Gov. Pence had publicly asked for “uncommonly high standards, written by Hoosiers for Hoosiers.” The major problem in getting even a decent imitation of Common Core to come out of such an ill-conceived and poorly-executed plan was that the committees selected by Fiddian-Green and Chamberlin weren’t capable of doing anything other than making the standards even weaker and more incoherent than Common Core’s. “Not making mathematical sense (NMMS),” as most of the mathematics standards were described by Hung-Hsi Wu, one of the reviewing mathematicians, and from the University of California, Berkeley.

I had already asked for expanded committees to include qualified high school English teachers and recognized literary scholars from Indiana after I had looked at the original list of committee members. But I had been told by Fiddian-Green that she and Chamberlin had complete confidence in the committees they had selected.  I am sure there are many qualified high school English teachers in the state and many recognized literary scholars at Indiana universities; they just weren’t on these committees.

Bottom Line: Indiana citizens now have uncommonly incoherent standards, written less incoherently four years ago in Washington DC by David Coleman and Sue Pimentel, but botched up by Hoosiers for Hoosiers.