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SAT changes may narrow socio-economic gap

SAT changes may narrow socio-economic gap

The SAT college admissions test is undergoing significant changes in 2016. The SAT has long been associated with the Ivy Leagues, high income and racial majority families.

Studies show that there is a substantial performance gap on the SAT between low-income, minority students and high- income, majority peers. The College Board—creators of the SAT—have recently debuted drastic changes that represent an attempt to narrow the performance gap and to transform the reputation that precedes the standardized test.

In its current form, the SAT features writing, critical reading and math sections that tend to support rote memorization and surface level reasoning skills – the redesign encourages more analytical thinking. Therefore, the new SAT will ask students to not only choose correct answers, but also provide evidence to support their choices. The math section will narrow in focus and onlyy assess skills through problem solving, data analysis and core algebra and select advance math topics. In addition, students will no longer lose points for choosing incorrect answers. The essay portion will also become optional.

Besides the actual redesign of the exam, The College Board will help bridge the socioeconomic gap by providing up to four fee waivers and free test prep through Kahn Academy—a free online homework help site.

The changes to the SAT are commendable. Modifications are closer aligned to classroom outcomes and expectations.

It will better assess students’ ability to think critically—a hallmark of higher education. Removal of the penalty may reduce test anxiety associated with choosing an incorrect an- swer. Fee waivers and free preparation increase low-

income students’ participa- tion in and performance on the SAT.

The College Board said it hopes that the changes will help the SAT keep up with its competitor—The ACT–that is taken by more students across the nation, especially in Louisiana. Louisiana students may want to consider taking both the ACT and the new SAT to have dual options for gaining admission into their college choice.

While the SAT modifi- cations have bought atten- tion to the influence of race and socioeconomics on col- lege access, K-16 adminis- trators must continue to fo- cus on effectively preparing students for college and ac- curately measuring college readiness. While ACT and SAT tests show that many American students are not meeting college readiness benchmarks, many argue that these exams are not a great predictor of col-lege success. Hopefully, The College Board’s action will prompt other college stakeholders to re-evaluate current college access and preparation practices.

Erin Wheeler, Ph.D., is a STEM Learning Strategy Consultant at Louisiana State University’s Center for Academic Success and owner of E_Source Learning Solutions in Amite. 

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