Saturday, March 8, 2014

There will be a new version of the SAT in 2016 (an easier version for the 'internet' generation and to ensure diversity)

The big news recently, in regard to the field of education in the USA, concerns the SAT test. This has been a test that high school students take either in their junior (3rd) or senior (4th) year.  The results of the test are submitted along with other materials to gain admission to a college or university.  

If you want to enroll as an undergraduate at a US college or university, you usually need to submit your high school grades, your SAT or ACT (another type of test) scores and three letters of recommendation by teachers.  The college or university will also ask that an application be filled out and they will look at the extracurricular activities in which a student has engaged (what the student did after school - volunteer work, real work, school activities etc.)

The company which makes the SAT test is dramatically changing the test.  Basically, they are going to make the test easier - much easier.  They are not saying that they are going to make the test easier, however. They are saying they are trying to make the test a better measurement of how well students have learned material in high school.

So why are they really changing the test?  In essence, there are a few reasons.

First, there is a rival testing company (another testing company that competes with the SAT company) that produces a test called the ACT.  The ACT is an easier test that high school students can take and more high school students are now taking the ACT than the SAT. 

Secondly, average SAT scores have been dropping during the 'internet' era.  Last year the average SAT scores were among the lowest in the history of the exam. Students in US high schools do not do 'real' research any more. They do not read as much as they used to, cannot write well and have very limited vocabulary sets. Therefore, frankly, current American students seem to be 'more stupid' than American students in the past.

Third, the gap between the scores of, on the one hand, white and Asian students and, on the other hand, black and Latino students has been increasing.  For many years the SAT test has been called a 'racist' test - a test that white and Asian students can do well on but black and Latino students cannot do well on.  If something is 'racist' it favors one or more races over others.  

Fourth, colleges and universities do not seem to value the SAT as much as they used to. Indeed, colleges and universities would like to have 'diverse' student bodies (a population of students).  But black and Latino students do so poorly on the SAT compared to white and Asian students that, if the SAT is used to choose students, very few black and Latino students will be accepted.   So the best option to ensure diversity is to get rid of the SAT or to make it super simple.

Here's an article about the upcoming changes to the SAT.

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

prep tests - preparation tests or practice tests

sweeping changes - dramatic changes, big changes - if your floor is dirty you sweep your floor with a broom to make it sweeping changes are like changes that clean out something so something completely new can begin

standardized tests - a test which is 'standard' or the same for everyone who takes it

tricks - a magician does magic tricks...when he does a trick he makes something happen but you can't see the real cause.  So this person is saying that students do not even know how their tests are being graded because some tricks are being used

evidence based - they will provide some material to read (evidence) and the student will read the material and then answer questions based on what he/she has read.  In NY State this is done on various exams students have to take in order to graduate from high school.  These tests are ridiculously easy.

retooled - redesigned

filling a bubble - taking one's pencil and making an open area darker

justifying an answer - explaining why they chose an answer

penalized - punished; apparently if you choose a wrong answer you lose more points than if you leave an answer blank

income eligible students - poor students (will be able to take the test for free)

altered - changed

obstructing them - stopping them

detached from - separate from (basically the SAT company is lying - they need to make an easier test for a bunch of social reasons but they are claiming they are making a better test, not an easier test)

academic rigor - academic difficulty

seductively simple - if something is seductive, it tempts seems very appealing to you.  So these test scores were seductively simple because they looked like an easy way to tell which students deserved admission and which didn't.

intrigued - very interested in

skeptical - not believing in something easily

angst - anxiety, stress, nervousness

obscure words - rarely used words

foster - encourage

the prompt - the part the student has to start from or write about

to gear up - to prepare

more transparent - less mysterious, more understandable

to breathe a sign of relief - this is when a person has been scared but then realizes he/she does not have to be scared any more and the person breathes out heavily to show relief or a new sense of peacefulness

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