Here’s news sure to trigger smiles among high-school students: The SATs are set for a makeover that may make the test easier.
Among the changes:
The writing section will become optional, and the top SAT score will drop back to 1600.
Less-common words will be gone.
No more penalty for wrong guesses.
Math questions will come from a narrower range of sub-subjects.
Keep in mind the SATs are supposed to measure college readiness. But Anne Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, frets over the “elimination of more difficult vocabulary and the writing requirement, and the watering down of the math standards.” She worries that the new SAT will be an attempt “to fudge over” students’ shortcomings.
She’s right to worry. David Coleman, head of the College Board (which runs the SAT), notes the test was criticized as being a better measure of “privilege than merit.” There are no unintelligent people, critics claim—just bad test-takers and kids too poor to have access to all life’s advantages.
It’s true some kids don’t test well. But for the SAT to have value, it needs to remain a rigorous and credible measure of true scholastic differences among students. In that respect, changes to the format in themselves erode confidence, in that they make before-and-after comparisons difficult and muddy notions about what is being measured.
No test, of course, is perfect. And there’s always room for improvement. But you do not help students who aren’t ready for college by changing the yardstick to make it look as though they are.