The man known as the "architect" of Common Core has used his new job running the College Board to deal a devastating blow to critics of the national education standards.
The SAT was revamped to align with the Common Core Standards Initiative, the broad language and math standards adopted by 45 states despite growing complaints that it will result in nationalized control of K-12 curriculum. The announcement on Tuesday was made by College Board President David Coleman, who before taking the post in 2012, played a key role in designing Common Core.
Common Core supporters insist the program will ensure through testing a baseline level of learning throughout the nation, but critics say those tests will ensure a uniform curriculum springs up to prepare kids for the tests. Now, with the leading college entrance exam aligned with Common Core, critics acknowledge fighting Common Core could hurt students' chances of getting into universities and even property values.
“It’s a roundabout way to put pressure on states that opted out of Common Core,” said Whitney Neal, director of Grassroots at Freedom Works. “If you are legislator from Virginia let’s say, this will put pressure on you obtain material to make your district more appealing especially to homebuyers. SAT averages are often included in realtor information and high school success rate is always a selling point.”
On the same day the SAT changes were announced, the Arizona senate voted down a bill that would have repealed that state's participation in Common Core. Although Arizona voted to participate in the program in 2010, its increasing unpopularity prompted the vote as well as Gov. Jan Brewer's move to rename the standards the "Arizona College and Career Ready Standards."
I'm going to posit a different theory for how the SAT/Coleman/CCSS alignment could play out.
The SAT has been hemorrhaging marketshare to the ACT for years and the hiring of CCSS architect Coleman was meant to staunch that bleeding.
By aligning the SAT with the Common Core, the edu-entrepreneurs running the College Board are thinking that students will decide to take the SAT over the ACT because the College Board test will more accurately reflect what they learned in school.
Thus the SAT will regain marketshare and put some distance between it and the ACT in terms of numbers of students taking the test - or so the thinking goes.
But here's the problem with that theory - the CCSS is under heavy assault all across the country and it won't be long before we start to see some states drop the standards completely.
Yes it's true that so far, CCSS supporters have managed to turn aside challenges to Common Core in various states that have seen rebellions over the standards (the most recent being Arizona last week.)
But no matter how many times proponents knock down challenges to CCSS, they're going to continue unabated because opponents to the CCSS look to be in it for the long haul.
What happens to the Common Core aligned-SAT when we go from 44 states + DC using the Core to, I dunno, say 37 states + DC using the Core?
Is the alignment of the SAT with the CCSS such a great selling point then?
Here's something else to think about.
It's just eight short years since the last SAT revamp, when they added the essay component and substituted grammar for the word analogies on the verbal section.
Here's how Peterson's described those changes:
As an example of some specific changes that have been made to the test, in 2005, the test was changed to better reflect the value of clear and effective writing. An essay was added to the test as a separate section, distinct from the verbal and mathematical reasoning sections. Students are presented with a thesis, which they may defend or reject, and are asked to complete the essay in 25 minutes. Students are free to structure their writing in any style that best conveys their point (expository, compare and contrast, or other techniques). Students may draw on any and all areas of their knowledge and experience in completing the essay portion of the test.
In the 2005 update, analogies were eliminated from the test because it was determined that they did not adequately reflect today's high school curriculum. It was also felt that the analogies encouraged memorization of vocabulary rather than reasoning skills.
Furthermore, in 2005 the math section was expanded to embrace concepts covered by most high school "Algebra II" courses. Again, the change represents an attempt to keep the SAT in step with the modern high school curriculum, and to emphasize the skills most desired by top colleges and universities.
Since those last changes to the SAT in 2005, College Board has seen the ACT overtake the SAT in marketshare and colleges largely ignore the writing component they added.
It is no slam dunk that the changes Coleman and the College Board announced last week will be any more successful than the changes College Board made to the SAT back in 2005.
Frankly, I think it's better than even money that College Board's hiring of Coleman comes back to bite College Board in the end.
The Common Core State (sic) Standards are already under widespread attack from right, middle and left and they've really only been fully adopted by a couple of states.
As more and more students and parents come into contact with the standards, we're going to see more hostility toward the CCSS and the tests and other reforms that go with the standards, like we've seen in New York State this past year.
Coleman and College Board could be changing the SAT to align with CCSS and rolling out those changes at the very same time that some states across the country start dropping out of Common Core and going on to different standards.
We'll see - boy genius/new historicist David Coleman has navigated difficult political waters before and won his way on things.
Still, we're starting to see a perfect storm of hostility arise over CCSS and I can easily see both Coleman and the SAT sinking under that storm.