Public education advocate and fellow education columnist Maria Naughton has another important article out about the NEW SATS and the decision by Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly to force all 11th graders to take the “Common Core” aligned test. The article first appeared in the New Canaan Advertiser
Education Matters: Problems with state’s change to student testing
New Canaan parents were recently informed that the SAT will replace the SBAC as the mandatory high school assessment for Juniors. This notice, from Governor Malloy and the State Department of Education, was in response to last year’s Smarter Balanced Assessment and the increasing standardized testing taking place in school. That testing led to an uproar around the state, prompting many families to opt-out.
Parents also learned the SAT will be given at no cost to students, and will be administered during the school day this coming spring. According to the state, barriers to accessing the SAT will be removed, thus expanding college opportunities for more students. While this is a laudable goal and may benefit many, mandating a college entrance exam is a mistake. This error is further compounded by the fact that, yet again, parents are being told by some school officials that students will not be able to opt-out, with some parents believing students will not graduate if they do. As we learned last year about the standardized testing, these are both untrue, and for many reasons, this move will surely be challenged.
Most obviously, making the SAT mandatory removes student choice. Of the two major college entrance tests from which most students pick, the ACT and SAT, the ACT is growing in popularity, as it is more reflective of the school experience. Students, including those in New Canaan, are well advised by parents, school counselors, and even private “college advisors.” They are making personalized and informed decisions on the matter. Consequently, students deciding that the ACT would be a better fit will end up taking both high-stakes tests, wasting both time and money, and diluting both efforts. Taking away student choice on a topic of this importance when we expect students to be more self-directed does not make sense.
Moreover, many families and students are learning that the 2016 SAT is completely new, and essentially experimental. The College Board (under the direction of the Common Core creator, David Coleman) has revised this test to align with the Common Core standards. Ironically, the new version of the SAT will have many of the same shortcomings as the 11th Grade SBAC. It has limited reliability and validity, is based on controversial standards, and experts are predicting a drop in scores for at least a few test administrations. Having a student take it willingly and knowingly is one matter. But announcing that all students must sit during the school day for this two-hour assessment, replete with issues, which will impact their transcript, all while there is an alternative, is unfair.
Furthermore, many colleges are offering test flexibility when it comes to the college-entrance process and are looking for more holistic approaches to evaluating students. According to U.S. News and World Report, 195 of the 850 test-flexible universities are deemed top-tier schools. Considering that high school grades and course choice are better indicators of college readiness than standardized tests, this flexibility makes sense. Clearly, the long-held belief that taking the SAT is the only gateway to obtaining a college education is no longer the reality.
This move will not even address the issue of over-testing. This year’s Junior class will endure an alphabet soup of testing in an effort to cover their bases. While some are taking AP tests, many will now take the PSAT to practice for the new SAT. They may also take the ACT, the old SAT, and the new SAT. At a time when parents are constantly reminded not to put too much pressure on our children when it comes to college preparations, maybe parents are not the problem. The state, and consequently the schools, have created a vortex of high pressure testing based on the rigorous “college and career standards,” starting right from Kindergarten. It would not be a stretch to think that students are experiencing stress and anxiety from sitting in the center of this educational maelstrom, despite the network of counselors, school psychologists and social workers ready to respond.
In all of this, there is one certainty. Mandating this test during the school day will expand the number of students taking the SAT. This is sorely needed by the College Board, whose market share has declined from 87% to 76%, while ACT’s has increased from 13% to 24%. This move would also enhance the College Board’s Student Search Service product, which allows licensees and research organizations to purchase student records up to five years after a student’s graduation, for as little as 40-cents per name. Acquiring the test “rights” in Connecticut would be a notch in their bottom-line belt, making one wonder if this move is more advantageous to students, or to the College Board.
Fortunately, and perhaps to no surprise, it was mentioned at last week’s New Canaan High School meeting that this policy is not solidified at the state level. Additionally, local BOE testing policies have not changed, meaning no single test score can ever be used as the “sole criterion of promotion or graduation.” Parents still have the right to refuse a test as they always have. That could change, as it has in other states, unless we advocate on behalf of our students. We need the BOE and the Administration to stand up to bad policies that divert local control and thwart parental decision-making.
Obviously, we all want what is best for our students. By using critical thinking and advocating for what is right, we can ensure that happens.
To understand more about the two tests, you can find an online tool created by Dr. Gary Gruber, publisher of many SAT/ACTbooks: http://www.drgarygruber.com/which-test-new-or-old-sat/
To learn more about the “test flexible” colleges and universities, visit www.fairtest.org.
Naughton is an educational consultant, former teacher and mother of four. She also serves on the Republican Town Committee, and is a Realtor with Barbara Cleary’s Realty Guild. Opinions expressed in this column solely reflect her views. You may email her [email protected]
You can read and post comments on the original piece at: http://ncadvertiser.com/58932/education-matters-problems-with-states-change-to-student-testing/#ixzz3ovlrEGvy