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. 

Gov. Jerry Brown, Assessment Control Freak

I don’t think anyone has accused California Governor Jerry Brown of being an advocate for local control, but here’s definitive proof that isn’t the case. He vetoed a bill, AB 1951, last week that would allow local school districts to substitute Smarter Balanced with the SAT or ACT for 11th graders.

Since the vast majority of students who plan to go to college take either one of those college-entrance exams (or both), it is a move that makes sense.

For the record, I believe there should be alternatives to those assessments (I’ve profiled a couple here), and we have also seen colleges drop the assessment requirement altogether

Brown’s answer to this is to require the University of California and California State University systems to accept Smarter Balanced as their college entrance exam.

In his veto message Brown wrote:

This bill requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to approve one or more nationally recognized high school assessments that a local school may administer in lieu of the state-administered high school summative assessment, commencing with the 2019-20 school year.

Since 2010, California has eliminated standardized testing in grades 9 and 10 and the high school exit exam. While I applaud the author’s efforts to improve student access to college and reduce “testing fatigue” in grade 11, I am not convinced that replacing the state’s high school assessment with the Scholastic Aptitude Test or American College Test achieves that goal.

Our K-12 system and our public universities are now discussing the possible future use of California’s grade 11 state assessment for college admission purposes. This is a better approach to improving access to college for under-represented students and reducing “testing fatigue.”

This “better idea” of Governor Brown’s is not feasible as the author of the bill, Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), EdSource reports:

Neither system currently does that, but at the request of Kirst, who is president of the State Board of Education, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, a UC administrator wrote in July that the UC would consider whether that would be feasible.

But O’Donnell said that even if CSU and UC were interested, it would take years for them to factor Smarter Balanced scores into their admissions criteria. His bill would have given districts the option of switching to the SAT or ACT in 2019-20.

He said that Brown’s veto message didn’t address his main reason for proposing his bill, which is to alert students of deficits in their skills before their junior year, in addition to encouraging more students to pursue college. Smarter Balanced tests students in 3rd to 8th grades and then 11th grade. It’s not given in 9th and 10th grades, creating a two-year gap. O’Donnell, a middle and high school teacher before his election to the Assembly, said that districts like Long Beach have used the Pre-SAT, starting in 8th grade, to fill in the vacuum of information by identifying what needs to be addressed before students take the SAT.

O’Donnell, who is the Assembly Education Committee Chair, told EdSource he plans to move the bill again next year when there is a new governor.

Student Data For Sale

Natasha Singer in The New York Times wrote about how student data collected by the College Board through surveys connected with the SAT and PSAT.

I wanted to highlight an excerpt:

Three thousand high school students from across the United States recently trekked to a university sports arena here to attend an event with an impressive-sounding name: the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders. Many of their parents had spent $985 on tuition.

Months earlier, the teenagers had received letters, signed by a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, congratulating them on being nominated for “a highly selective national program honoring academically superior high school students.”

The students all had good grades. But many of them were selected for the event because they had once filled out surveys that they believed would help them learn about colleges and college scholarships.

Through their schools, many students in the audience had taken a college-planning questionnaire, called MyCollegeOptions. Others had taken surveys that came with the SAT or the PSAT, tests administered by the College Board. In filling out those surveys, the teenagers ended up signing away personal details that were later sold and shared with the future scientists event.

Read the rest.

She mentioned the U.S. Department of Education in May released guidance on this particular practice (which ACT does as well). This guidance recommended that schools make it clearer that pre-test surveys are optional. You can it below:


Students Want College Board to Rescore June SAT Results

After David Coleman took the helm of The College Board it just seems like they’ve had one controversy after another whether it is the revamping of the SAT or problems with their AP U.S. History and World History Frameworks, they keep having problems.

Now students are protesting the scoring from June’s SAT results.

The News & Observer reports:

Many students who took the SAT exam in June were surprised Wednesday to get back results that they thought were inaccurate because the score was lower than they thought. The College Board, which administers the SAT, told students that because versions of the exam given on different dates are easier than others, they use a statistical process called “equating” to grade the answers on a curve.

“Equating makes sure that a score for a test taken on one date is equivalent to a score from another date,” the College Board tweeted Thursday morning. “So, for example, a single incorrect answer on one administration could equal two or three incorrect answers on a more difficult version. The equating process ensures fairness for all students.”

The College Board’s response didn’t satisfy families who are using the results as part of the college application process. Students and parents took their complaints to social media with the hashtag #rescoreJuneSAT picking up momentum on Twitter.

Read the rest.

They note this comes at a time where the SAT has already lost ground to their rival, ACT.

Brown Is Fourth Ivy League School to Drop SAT/ACT Essay Requirement

Sayles Hall on Brown University’s Campus in Providence, RI.
Photo Credit: Ad Meskens via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Brown University announced that it will join Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth Universities as the fourth Ivy League school that will no longer require the ACT writing or SAT essay test.

8000 schools nationwide offer free school-day SATs, but those do not include the essay portion of the SAT Logan Powell, Brown’s Dean of Admissions, explained. He said this could discourage talented students from applying to schools that require it.

Powell participated in a committee in 2013 convened by The College Board, who administers the SAT, that recommended the institution of free school-day testing.

He noted many students from low-income families take advantage of free SAT testing offered during the school day. This enables those who might encounter difficulties taking standardized tests on a Saturday — when the SAT and ACT are traditionally offered — to avoid challenges such as finding transportation, taking time off from work or applying for a fee waiver.

“Given the significant growth in free school-day testing, it’s important to enable students from low-income families to take advantage of the tests already offered by their school districts and not place an undue burden on them to go in separately outside of normal school hours,” Powell said. “Our goal is that for any talented student interested in Brown, the application process is not a deterrent — and we don’t want this test to be a barrier to their application.”

Undergraduate applicants can still submit their SAT essay or ACT writing scores should they choose, Powell added. And the University also recommends that applicants submit a graded paper from a humanities or social sciences course as part of their application.

The shift in testing requirements is one of a wide range of efforts at Brown to ensure that financial considerations do not prevent talented students from applying to or enrolling at the University.

University of Chicago Joins Growing List of Colleges Not Requiring ACT or SAT

University of Chicago Main Quad
Photo Credit: Ndshankar via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 4.0)

The University of Chicago joins a growing list of colleges that will no longer require students to submit ACT or SAT scores as an admission requirement.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

A growing number, including DePaul University, have opted to stop requiring the SAT and ACT in their admissions process, saying the tests place an unfair cost and burden on low-income and minority students, and ultimately hinder efforts to broaden diversity on campus. But the trend has escaped the nation’s most selective universities.

Until now. The University of Chicago announced Thursday that it would no longer require applicants for the undergraduate college to submit standardized test scores.

While it will still allow applicants to submit their SAT or ACT scores, university officials said they would let prospective undergraduates send transcripts on their own and submit video introductions and nontraditional materials to supplement their applications.

“We were sending a message to students, with our own requirements, that one test basically identifies you,” said Jim Nondorf, vice president and dean of admissions at U. of C. “Despite the fact that we would say testing is only one piece of the application, that’s the first thing a college asks you. We wanted to really take a look at all our requirements and make sure they were fair to every group, that everybody, anybody could aspire to a place like UChicago.”

Read the rest.

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing states that there are over 1000 schools across the nation that do not require ACT or SAT for admissions. They report that half of the U.S. News “Top 100” liberal arts colleges are on their list of test-optional schools. So are a majority of all colleges and universities in New England and more than 50 percent in such states as Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

“Studies show that an applicant’s high school record – grades plus course rigor – predicts undergraduate success better than any standardized exam. By going test-optional, colleges increase diversity without any loss in academic quality. Eliminating testing requirements is a ‘win-win’ for both students and schools,” Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director with the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, stated back in January when their list first topped 1000 schools.

“College and university leaders are sending a clear message,” Schaeffer added. “Test scores are not needed to make sound educational decisions. It’s time for K-12 policy makers to pay attention and back off their testing obsession for public schools.”

More Schools Drop SAT/ACT Essay Requirement For Admissions

Yale University in New Haven, CT.
Photo Credit: Adam Jones (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Some big news for high school seniors who plan on attending certain Ivy League schools, Yale University just announced they will no longer require students to take the SAT or ACT essay assessment as an admission requirement. They join Harvard University and Dartmouth College.

The Washington Post reports:

On Friday, Yale University said applicants will no longer be required to submit an essay score from the SAT or the ACT. The policy will take effect for rising high school seniors who seek to enter the university’s Class of 2023. Yale’s action comes weeks after Harvard University and Dartmouth College dropped the requirement.

In recent years many states, counties and cities have funded SAT and ACT testing during the school day in public schools, making the exams free for students. Sometimes, those testing programs include the optional essay sections, but sometimes they don’t. That produces a quandary for students who might be thinking about whether to apply to colleges that require the essay: Should they have to take the test all over again just to get an essay score?

Very few schools actually require this anyway, and the Washington Post noted that selective colleges require an essay within their admissions process.

A representative from Stanford University, which still requires the essay, noted the importance of writing.

Stanford’s dean of admission and financial aid, Richard Shaw, said he is reviewing the issue. “However, we should treasure writing as an important skill in life and it should be a major focus [of] K-12,” Shaw wrote in an email. “So the question becomes what is the alternative to assessing writing competency in the admissions process.”

Writing is a vital skill and writing instruction, which was weak before, has taken a hit during the Common Core era. Sandra Stotsky, who served on the Common Core validation committee and was the author of Massachusetts’ top-notch ELA standards that helped that state lead in K-12 education prior to Common Core, noted that the writing standards were not linked to appropriate reading standards.

Schools like Yale will have to deal with students educated under this system.

Read the rest of WaPo article.

Arizona House Bill Would Require High School Juniors to Take ACT or SAT

Photo Credit: Ken Lund (CC-By-SA 2.0)

This week, HB 2037, a bill filed in the Arizona House of Representatives, if passed would not require high school juniors to take AzMerit or the AIMS Science test. Instead, they would take a college-readiness exam like ACT or SAT.

The bill sponsor is Arizona State Representative Heather Carter (R-Cave Creek) who represents Arizona Legislative District 15. He serves on the Arizona House Appropriations Committee, the vice-chairman for the Arizona House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, and the Chair of the Arizona House Health Committee.

The pertinent bill language reads:





The bill has been assigned to the Arizona House Rules Committee. reported on the bill prior to it being filed:

House Bill 2037, introduced on Dec. 18 by Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, would eliminate the state requirements that juniors take the AzMERIT test and the science portion of the AIMS test. Instead, they would have to take the SAT or ACT during school hours.

Students wouldn’t have to get a certain score on the tests in order to graduate.

Carter said the low stakes of AzMERIT result in students not trying very hard on the tests, and believes requiringcollege-readiness exams insteadwould set them up for success.

“Universities and scholarship programs seek out those students that do well,” she said.

The goal of AzMERIT is to provide insight into a student’s educational growth.Carter said such a goal is wasted on students taking the test during their junior year since they typically receive results their senior year.

At that point, she said,the college-readiness exams would serve them better.

Furthermore, she said,providing the ACT or SAT tests free to students during school hours and making them compulsory would dramatically increase the number of students who take the test.

The bill itself does not specify which exam juniors would have to take. Presumably the state board would create rules outlining which assessments are allowed. The SAT, run by the College Board, has fully aligned their test to the Common Core State Standards.

ACT initially announced they would align to the Common Core, but has not done so as of yet with their college-entrance exam. In a 2012 white paper they would not make the claim ACT was aligned to Common Core, only that they shared research with those developing Common Core. ACT also developed an assessment, ACT Aspire, for use as a statewide assessment for use with states that use Common Core. They have also developed a social-emotional learning assessment. Interestingly enough, in 2016, ACT critiqued Common Core saying it did not reflect college readiness in some aspects.

Even so, may parents and activists are leery of ACT because of their initial involvement with the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

It’s unclear whether students could use alternatives like The Classic Learning Test or Vector ARC instead of SAT or ACT. If it has to be a choice between SAT or ACT, I’d encourage parents to choose ACT. ACT is still somewhat a wild card, but we know the SAT is all in with Common Core.

All of this is a moot point if the bill doesn’t pass though.

New Hampshire Sees Decline in Math and ELA Proficiency

The New Hampshire Department of Education released last year’s Smarter Balanced and SAT scores which showed a decline in math and ELA proficiency.  New Hampshire’s students take Smarter Balanced in grades 3-8 and grade 11 they take the SAT.

Each grade that took the Smarter Balanced Assessment saw a decline in math and ELA proficiency. The lone bright spot was with 11th-graders taking the SAT who had a three percent gain (44 percent) in math from last year. Even so, less than half of the Granite State’s juniors are proficient in math.

“We are obviously concerned about the decline in student performance and will be working closely with schools to understand the underlying drivers,” commented Frank Edelblut, Commissioner of Education. “It is interesting that all of the states that participated in the Smarter Balanced consortium for 2016-2017 saw a similar decline in their English language arts results, except California, which stayed even.”

“Now that the data has been certified, we will do some deep analysis to understand the results, looking at how our districts, schools, and subgroups performed,” stated Sandie MacDonald, the administrator for the Bureau of Instructional Support and Student Assessment. “While schools and families have had individualized student information to assist in supporting students since last spring, this is the Departments first opportunity to look at the aggregate state and district data we need to support our schools.”

I suspect what they will probably find as they do “deep analysis,” as other states have seen, is that they have a widening proficiency gap with their minority students.

Something that jumped out at me looking at these scores is how New Hampshire lacks California’s “hope.” In California, educrats were latching onto hope because of their third graders, who started kindergarten under Common Core, saw a slight increase collectively than previous third graders.

It is a false hope as I wrote:

Some are getting excited about less than one-half of California’s third graders meeting and exceeding standards. Also, apparently the definition of “relatively high” has changed. These students have been under Common Core since the beginning and still, only 47 percent meet or exceed the standards.

In 2016, 46 percent of third-graders met or exceeded standards. As fourth-graders this year only 40.45 percent do. In 2015, 40 percent of third-graders met or exceeded standards, but as fifth-graders this year only 33.83 percent do.

So the only thing I see here is that students’ collective scores worsen the longer they are under Common Core.

New Hampshire can still point to a higher proficiency rate, but they also have fewer ESL learners, fewer minority students, etc. who historically have not performed as well on standardized assessments. What New Hampshire can’t point to is collective growth in their proficiency rate among third graders.

SAT Will Replace Smarter Balanced for West Virginia’s High School Juniors

High school juniors in the Mountaineer state will take the SAT college entrance exam instead of the Smarter Balanced Assessment the West Virginia Department of Education announced this week.

From their press release:

All West Virginia high school juniors will begin taking the SAT as the statewide summative assessment in spring 2018, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) announced today. The College Board was selected as the successful bidder following a competitive review process for the high school assessment.

The shift in the West Virginia’s statewide assessment was a result of the state legislation passed last April (HB 2711) which, among other things, required the WVDE to identify a college entrance exam to be used as the statewide high school assessment.

“The College Board’s SAT test is a widely respected assessment used across the country,” said Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Dr. Lou Maynus. “College Board proved through the bid process that its product was the better assessment for West Virginia students by providing valuable resources at a lower cost than the other bidder.”

SAT was selected as the successful bidder because their proposal more closely met the specifications of the request for proposals (RFP). Students will have access to a large number of resources including the well-known Khan Academy®, which is the official practice portal for SAT. Through Khan Academy®, students have access to eight practice tests, thousands of practice questions and personalized recommendations to help students focus on the skills needed to improve their performance. Additionally, SAT provides an easy process for approving accommodations and supports for testing students with disabilities, students on section 504 plans and English learners. West Virginia high schools are already familiar with College Board through their Advanced Placement (AP) program that helps students earn college credits while in high school.

The SAT assessment will be administered in a paper format in year one with an option to move online in year two and beyond The assessment will be the same as a typical Saturday SAT assessment, but given to students during the regular school day. Students can send their scores to up to four colleges or universities at no cost.

The law that the department cites in their press release means that West Virginia will dump Smarter Balanced as it prohibits the State’s Board of Education “from adopting the Smarter Balanced Assessment system or the PARCC assessment system as the statewide summative assessment.”

Unfortunately, if they didn’t include language that the college entrance exam should not be Common Core aligned. The College Board with Common Core architect David Coleman at the helm has aligned the SAT with the standards. They have ruined the assessment. ACT would have been a better choice.