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Whistleblower Hits College Board for SAT Changes

June 15, 2016

School Choice Weekly #141

A whistle with red string.

The former director of assessment design for College Board, the organization that owns the SAT and Advanced Placement tests, is alleging its SAT rewrite has been riddled with shoddy work and public deceptions. College Board released a rewritten SAT this spring. Manuel Alfaro reveals, among other things:

My first assignment with the College Board was to review a draft of the test specifications for the redesigned SAT. The document had been created by two of David Coleman’s cronies, two authors of the Common Core. … My instructions were to rubberstamp the selection of standards and to rewrite the standard descriptions to make them unrecognizable, so that no one could tell they were Common Core.

More:

The College Board tells the public, content advisory committee members, and clients that operational items [questions students answer on real tests] are revised only in the RAREST of occasions. Facts, however, show that a large percentage of operational items on each form (often greater than 50%) are extensively revised/rewritten. And no, I’m not talking about adding a missing comma here, fixing a typo there, or changing the standard alignment. Sometimes the revised items are completely different than the version that was pretested.

Alfaro suggests the rewrite has been so badly handled that it is detrimental to students – remember, an SAT score can be a significant component that determines a young person’s college acceptance, placement, and scholarships. For example:

Experimental sections can appear anywhere on the test. If they appear early on the tests, and if some items are flawed (maybe even unsolvable), wouldn’t some students spend a lot of their time struggling with these items, which don’t contribute to their scores, and reach fewer items that actually count?

Taxpayers also have reason to be interested in the SAT’s trustworthiness, because states have been signing contracts with College Board to administer SAT to all students, paid for by taxpayers, and even use it to satisfy federal requirements. If the test is not trustworthy, there’s no reason for lawmakers to use it to ostensibly “inform the public” – because in that case the test doesn’t accurately represent student performance. The only people who benefit from that scenario are those who work for College Board and get millions of dollars in taxpayer funds for shoddy work.

There is already some independent verification of Alfaro’s claims that the new SAT is of worse quality. For example, Western Kentucky University has increased the new SAT score required to qualify for admission – by 80 points. In the university’s estimation, a 1020 on the new test is comparable to a 940 on the old test.

This story is still breaking. More to come.

SOURCES: Manuel Alfaro, Mercedes Schneider, Western Kentucky University


IN THIS ISSUE:


School Choice Roundup


Common Core and Curriculum Watch

  • NEW YORK: The kids inside these Core Knowledge charter schools in New York City perform better than those in any charter networks in the state save one. Look what they can do.

Education Today

  • VIRGINIA: The court wars over whether transgender children may choose their bathrooms, locker rooms, and other private facilities have been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, with implications also for sports teams.
  • OHIO: Another school district is suing the Obama administration over the latter’s reinterpretation of Title IX as requiring schools to co-locate transgender and non-transgender students in private facilities.
Article Tags
Education
Author
Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing editor of The Federalist, a web magazine on politics, policy, and culture.
jpullmann@heartland.org @JoyPullmann

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