SAT changes leave Leef unimpressed

George Leef’s latest Forbes column examines recently announced changes for the SAT. He’s not a fan.

The most significant changes to be made (the new test will not be given until 2016) are: lowering of the difficulty of the math section which will henceforth only cover linear equations, functions, and proportions, elimination of the penalty for wrong guesses, downgrading the vocabulary section to focus more on words that college students are likely to encounter, the essay section, added in 2005, will now be optional for those students willing to stick around for another 50 minutes, and SAT takers will have access to free online help in preparation through Khan Academy.

Will the changes make the SAT a better means for colleges to decide whether a student is a good academic fit for the school? I think not. If anything, the lowering of the difficulty level will make it less useful – much like playing The Masters from the ladies’ tees at Augusta National would make the tournament less of a test for the best golfer.

What is really behind the changes in the SAT is the need for the College Board to fend off the attacks that its big “product” is unfair and contributes to “social injustice.” The message to the egalitarian critics of the SAT is, “We hear you and are acting in accordance with your just criticisms!”

As for the notion that the test will be better in an evaluative way (rather than in a public relations way), that’s very doubtful.

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