The Redesigned SAT

Using a MOOC model to advance equity of access.

GUEST COLUMN | by Emily Kissane

CREDIT College BoardThe College Board’s announcement of a significant redesign of the SAT garnered wide attention from prospective college students, educators, policymakers, and the press.  From vocabulary questions focused on more commonly used words to the math section covering fewer subjects, the media has detailed the implications of these and other changes for student test-takers.

Test content has rightfully taken center stage, but technology has a vital supporting role in launching the new SAT. The two most obvious points are the option to take the exam on a

Success in taking the redesigned SAT will have more to do with mastery of content and less about test-taking strategies. Technology can play a vital role.

computer as well as on paper and the banishing of calculators for some of the math sections. But technology will be important beyond its role in the test-taking process; it has the potential to advance students’ preparation for the exam and to support the educational aspirations of more young adults.

Colleges and universities should (and do) use a variety of means to assess each student for admission—the rigor of courses taken in high school, grades, a portfolio of work, and standardized test scores, for example. Continuous improvement of those insights and tools benefits students and institutions as they predict how well a student will succeed in college.

The College Board’s announcement—and the nature of the proposed changes—are evidence that success in taking the redesigned SAT will have more to do with mastery of content and less about test-taking strategies. Eliminating the penalty against guessing is a case in point. More closely aligning the exam with high school and college curricula makes it an even more valuable part of college readiness.

This change means that test preparation ideally should be integrated more closely into classroom studies and college readiness activities, and technology can play a vital role in accomplishing that goal. That point was made during the rollout of the revised SAT, with College Board announcing a partnership with Khan Academy to provide free online test preparation. The announcement also underscored the importance of addressing access to test preparation for low-income students—an increasingly critical issue as preparation becomes less about the process of taking the test (i.e. test-taking tips and strategies) and more about instruction and the mastery of content.

Achieving greater equity of access to test preparation tools and materials will rely on addressing the availability and affordability of Internet connectivity in low-income and rural areas. If students are going to use technology, they need the means to gain access to it.

Some schools and districts have addressed equity of access issues by having school- or district-wide test preparation tools. To meet the demands of the redesigned SAT and other rigorous assessments, a solution should personalize instruction and have the following features:

  •       Ongoing assessment of each student’s academic strengths and weaknesses;
  •       Instruction focused on areas of greatest need;
  •       Full integration with the school’s or district’s college and career readiness efforts;
  •       Timely feedback for teachers on their students’ performance and progress;
  •       Reporting that provides essential detail while being easy to use; and
  •       Support for teachers and counselors to ensure they and their students make effective use of the tool.

The move towards college entrance assessments becoming more reflective of classroom learning and real-life college content should prompt the creation or advancement of technology solutions to support student mastery of content. Preparation for these assessments should become an integral part of high schools’ curricula, thereby making college and career readiness the expectation for all students.

Emily Kissane is a policy analyst specializing K-12 and higher education for Hobsons, an education solutions company maximizing success through every stage of the learning lifecycle. Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Kissane.

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