The College Board announced Wednesday across-the-board changes to the SAT college admissions test – including a return to the 1600-point scoring scale and a departure from the mandatory timed essay – as well as new initiatives to promote equity and opportunity for college-bound students.
Beginning in the spring of 2016, students will take a redesigned SAT the board says focuses on more relevant vocabulary words that "students will use consistently in college and beyond," draws from fewer math topics and does not deduct points for incorrect answers, as it has done in the past. The essay section, which was first made mandatory in the SAT's 2005 revamp that also established its current 2400-point scale, now will be optional and separately scored.
"We must certainly ask ourselves if we are, together or as a group, doing all we can to advance equity and excellence," College Board President David Coleman said while announcing the changes at the South by Southwest Education conference in Austin, Texas. "Because if you look around, it sure doesn't look like it."
"It is time to admit the SAT and ACT have become far too disconnected from the work of our high schools," Coleman added.
Coleman also announced several initiatives to give more support to high-performing students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including an initiative that will give every income-eligible SAT test-taker four fee waivers to apply to college.
"It is time for the College Board to move from measuring to acting," Coleman said. "Once the test is over, the real work of delivering and propelling students into opportunity begins."
The College Board recently found that just 43 percent of American students are ready for college – a statistic that has remained stagnant for five years. Additionally, Coleman said, most students who come from the lowest income quintile, but score in the highest SAT range, do not apply to more competitive colleges.
The College Board also will partner with Khan Academy to offer free SAT test preparation materials to every student. College admissions tests, including the SAT and the ACT, have been heavily criticized by those who say they unintentionally favor students from wealthier families with the means to pay for preparation that gives students access to what Coleman called the "secrets" of the tests.
"It is time for the College Board to say in a clear voice that the culture and practice of test preparation that now surrounds admissions exams drives the perception of inequality and injustice in our country," Coleman said. "We cannot stand aside and say, 'We made a good test, what happens before and after is not our fault.' It may not be our fault, but it is our problem."
The material through Khan Academy will be made available in the spring of 2015. In addition, students who will be taking the current version of the SAT will have the opportunity to access "hundreds of previously unreleased practice problems from actual SAT exams" through Khan Academy, according to the College Board.
"For too long, there's been a well-known imbalance between students who could afford test-prep courses and those who couldn't," Sal Khan, founder and executive director of Khan Academy, said in a statement. "We're thrilled to collaborate closely with the College Board to level the playing field by making truly world-class test-prep materials freely available to all students."
Not sure how I feel about them dropping the essay requirement, a lot of people I know can barely write as it is and it's pretty sad.