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We are committed to providing you with the most up-to-date resources and announcements from the college admissions testing landscape. Here are some of the top headlines from this past month:
SAT Cancels June and Limits International Test Dates
Summary: The biggest story in test prep this past month was the College Board’s announcement that as of next school year the SAT will only be offered internationally four times a year as opposed to the current five. Additionally, this year’s June international test is cancelled; the College Board is in the process of contacting all students registered for this test. There has been NO change to the Subject Tests. These changes are an effort by the College Board to address rising attention to cheating, test leaks, and reuse of exams abroad. The announcement also indicated that the College Board has cancelled a large number of international scores from January’s SAT due to security issues. For more, see our recent blog post on the announcement.
What this means: This is a major step forward for the College Board as it attempts to deal with cheating. Such efforts speak to how seriously the College Board is now taking the issue. But it is also a major blow to those honest students who were already registered for June’s exam. Students who have been preparing for months have been caught in the middle and now must adjust their entire testing timelines.
College Board Announces New Measures to Enhance SAT Security Domestically and Abroad (College Board)
College Board Takes ‘Robust’ New SAT Security Steps—But Is It Enough to Stymie Cheating? (Washington Post)
College Board Tightens SAT Exam Security, But Key Risk Remains (Reuters)
ACT Adding July Test Date in 2018
Summary: In response to consumer demand, the ACT announced today that starting in 2018 there will now be a test offered in July. That brings the total number of ACT’s offered each year to seven (February, April, June, July, September, October, and December). This summer test will likely take place on local college campuses given that high schools where the exam is normally given during the school year are closed during the summer. The ACT registration’s webpage shows the exact date will be July 14 and that the test will be offered in every state except New York.
What this means: The SAT recently announced that it would add a summer test date in August. Not to be outdone, the ACT has responded by one-upping the SAT: moving its test even earlier. Moreover, the ACT made this test an additional offering in the yearly schedule; when the SAT added the August exam, it eliminated the January test to keep the number of tests offered each year stable.
We expect that the July ACT exam will become a very popular option for students because it gives them a chance to prep during summer break and take the exam at least twice (in July and September) before early applications are due.
New SAT Big Blue Book Coming in May
Summary: You can now pre-order the new version of the College Board’s Official Study Guide to the SAT through Amazon. The book will be available May 16 and contains eight full-length exams (four more than the last version of the book).
What this means: More official material is always a good thing. It’s the best tool for improving any student’s scores. Though it’s not clear yet which tests will be featured in this edition, our assumption is that it will likely contain the four from the previous blue book plus the three additional released exams on the College Board’s site (April 2016 school day test, May 2016, October 2016), and the next test to be released via the Question and Answer Service (January 2017).
Popularity of New AP Computer Science Principles Class
Summary: This year the College Board began offering a new AP course, AP Computer Science Principles (CPS), that covers introductory concepts for computer science. The goal of the course was to attract more female and minority students to computer science who may have been deterred by the previously offered AP Computer Science A (CSA), a course heavily focused on advanced programming and requiring previous experience in the field. According to new data from the College Board:
- “African-American participation was 16 percent in AP CSP compared to 4 percent in CSA
- Hispanic student participation was 18 percent in AP CSP compared to 9 percent in CSA
- Girls’ participation was 28 percent in AP CSP compared to 22 percent in CSA”
The data also shows that the new course has been incredibly popular with all students and schools: “The College Board reports that Computer Science Principles is the largest debut of an AP course in the 60-year history of the AP program. In its first year, 2,600 teachers are authorized to teach it, while the prior largest new AP course, AP World History, had 1,000 teachers.”
What this means: Any course that expands Computer Science skills to female and minority students is a boon in a field dominated by white, male students. AP CSP is considered a feeder course for AP CSA; the hope and likely outcome of CSP’s high popularity is higher rates of enrollment in CSA in the future.
Funding for AP/IB Exams for Low-Income Students Cut by Federal Government
Summary: As part of ESSA passed by Congress last year, the federal government will no longer pay the exam fees for low-income students to take AP or IB tests. The government has subsidized these fees since 1998. The new limits will affect nearly half a million low-income students currently registered for AP courses across the country, according to the College Board. The College Board has stepped in and increased its subsidy for these students from $22 to $31. Nineteen states are using state funds to cover the remaining gap this year. Washington State held a fundraiser that garnered support from Microsoft and other big names. But the future of such state efforts is in question.
What this means: Most educators and experts didn’t notice this gap in funding until recently. It’s not likely that the gap will be filled by federal legislation in the near future. However, states could decide to use block grant money to do so.
December SAT Essay Featured Political Article
Summary: The Essay section of the December SAT asked students to analyze an article from the Huffington Post written by a New York Senator. In an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal written by a high school senior, the author argues that the Huffington Post piece supported the Family Medical Insurance Leave Act and was written by “one of the most liberal members of the U.S. Senate.” The article called it “inappropriate” to ask students to analyze the piece and argued that it “promote[d] a political agenda to millions of impressionable students.” However a writer at Teen Vogue has weighed in and argues that the SAT was in the right here. The writer points out that “Dissecting political commentary intelligently and thoughtfully is of the utmost importance” given the current political climate. And that to read and analyze something isn’t to automatically believe it.
What this means: Remember that students don’t write an essay either agreeing or disagreeing with the article on the SAT. Instead, they merely have to analyze the way in which the author constructs his/her argument. No matter which end (or gray area) of the political spectrum you find yourself on, there’s no denying that politics and education often get into a tangled mess with each other from time to time.
Students should be prepared to read passages on the reading sections and viewpoints on the essays of both the SAT and ACT that they may not agree with. It’s part of the college experience to face divergent viewpoints and analyze them, and the SAT and ACT exams after all are college-readiness tests.
Even the SAT Has Become Political (Wall Street Journal)
The Latest SAT Exam Featured a Political Essay Question, and That’s a Good Thing (Teen Vogue)
ACT Chooses Test Administrator in South Korea
Summary: The ACT has officially selected the Fulbright Korean-American Education Commission (commonly known as the Korea Fulbright Commission) to administer the ACT in South Korea starting with the April ACT. In the past, the ACT was administered by a number of different groups at various sites around the country. But after major security breaches related to leaked test materials, the ACT shutdown these other test sites and ACT representatives were brought in to directly administer the test at a single site in December. Moving forward, the exam will still be given at only one location, but the ACT will outsource administration to the Korea Fulbright Commission, “a non-profit educational organization [established] by a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea.” The next test in South Korea will be April 8; registration is due March 3.
What this means: ACT is taking very seriously the issues related to cheating in South Korea. Look for continued attention to this issue in the coming months. If you have students planning to take the exam in South Korea, early sign up is essential so they can arrange for travel to the single site and are assured of a seat on exam day.
Race and the SAT
Summary: A recent report from the Brookings Institute found dramatic racial divisions in student performance on the Math section of the SAT. The report looks at College Board released data for the year 2015 (the old version of the SAT) and finds that African American and Latino students on average score lower than white and Asian American students. And there has been no improvement in this gap over the last 15 years. “These inequalities are especially concentrated at the tails of the score distribution; we estimate that at most only 1,000 blacks and 2,400 Latinos scored above a 750, compared to some 16,000 whites and 29,600 Asians.” The paper argues that because the SAT is part of the “gateway” to a college education, the scores “reflect and reinforce racial inequalities across generations.” The report gives no definitive reason for the gap, but argues that it “mirror[s] to racial inequities in society as a whole.”
What this means: Most critiques of racial disparities in performance on the SAT have focused on the Verbal sections. It was a major reason for the elimination of analogies a decade ago. But this report argues that Math—a much less studied section—shows similar disparities.
It will be interesting to see how these trends change with the new SAT. In some respects, the new exam’s math is harder, but the College Board has very publicly claimed that the changes to the new exam were to address concerns about racial disparities. We will have to wait for the data to see how well the changes worked.
Race Gaps in SAT Math Scores Are as Big as Ever (Brookings Institution)
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