The SAT: Scrap it or Re-Write it?

This past year was the first time more high school seniors took the ACT rather than the SAT. There are two provocative articles out now about the SAT and its future. One is an opinion piece in the Washington Post by Jay Mathews titled “Outdated SAT Needs to be Retired” and the other is a profile of the new CEO of the College Board who is also one of the main authors of the Common Core standards, David Coleman. This article in The Atlantic lay’s out Coleman’s drive to make the SAT a knowledge-based exam that complements the skills built by the Common Core.

As an educator, I find the hoop-jumping and disconnected gibberish of the SAT infuriating – study after study (and college boyfriend after college boyfriend in my case) shows that performance on the SAT does not translate into performance in college courses or even eventual graduation. The ACT seems a slightly more democratic exam; however, even better would be a reliance on exams like those the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program puts out.

Take the history exam for example: instead of a one-shot multiple choice extravaganza, the IB exam is made up of four parts. An out of class research paper on a topic of the student’s choice, a series of timed document based questions, and two timed essays the topic of which the student is able to select from a short list. Similarly in science class the IB exam score is partly based on a student-designed lab. In English a large part of the exam consists of giving an oral commentary on a particular text. Yes, these exams are expensive to grade and require extensive training of teachers before hand. But how well has efficiency and expediency in standardized testing served our kids for the past few decades?

How do you feel about the SAT?


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