For decades, the SAT has been criticized for defining students by an unrealistic exam. In response to constant complaints, the College Board announced a plan in early March to overhaul the SAT. The modified test will realign with high school students' curriculum, rely less on exam strategies and return to the 1,600 scale.
College Board President David Coleman, who conceived the common core of curriculum standards, criticized his own creation. "It is time to admit that the SAT and ACT have become disconnected from the work of our high schools," Coleman said.
Beginning in the spring of 2016, students will no longer face penalization for wrong answers, will not see as many obscure vocabulary words and will have the choice of writing an essay. Before the remodeled exam is introduced, the College Board will partner with Khan Academy to offer free online practices and instructional videos.
The new "evidence-based reading and writing" section will test students on words actually found in college classrooms. The math section of the exam will focus more on problem-solving and data analysis. Calculators will no longer be allowed throughout the entirety of the exam, but encouraged during portions of the test. Students will have the option to take the exam on the computer or on paper.
For most schools in Dallas-Fort Worth, the new SAT realigns with students' school work. Now, high scores on the SAT are not reserved for those who can afford costly tutors, and the exam will more accurately reflect how students will perform in college.
"We are very excited about the changes. We think this test will do a better job of truly assessing our students and we look forward to learning more about it," Gina Peddy, K-12 GT/Advanced Academics coordinator at Carroll ISD, said. "We are also excited about College Board teaming up with Khan Academy. Many of our students use this resource for math and science, so they are familiar with this resource."
Should students choose to write an essay, they will be allotted 50 minutes to prepare, as opposed to 25 minutes. Peddy said Carroll ISD's administration will continue to encourage students to take the essay portion, but appreciates more time to analyze data and write a draft.
Peddy also believes the vocabulary portion will allow more realistic SAT scores for students in Southlake and elsewhere. "We love that the reading and writing sections will be combined into 'evidence-based reading and writing' and that sentence completion will no longer be on the test," she explained. "The focus will be on real vocabulary in context. We also love that one passage will be from a primary source such as the Constitution or [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's] 'I Have a Dream' speech."
Most public high schools in Dallas offer college preparation classes to ensure students will know what to expect from the SAT or ACT. Frisco ISD offers juniors and seniors a semester-long elective class to prepare them for the exam. This course is GPA exempt and recorded as a pass/fail, meaning it will not lower students' grade point average.
"As spring of 2016 approaches, teachers will share up-to-date information with students who will be tested under the new format," FISD Communicators Facilitator Meghan Youker said.
Currently, Frisco ISD pays for students to take practice exams through Method Test Prep. This way, students can prepare while at home for free. The district also allows students to pay a reduced rate for in-person preparation classes.
Making SAT exam preparation affordable is also important to the College Board. Coleman said, "It is time for the College Board to say in a clearer voice that the culture and practice of costly test preparation that has arisen around administration exams drives the perception of inequality and injustice in our country. It may not be our fault, but it is our problem."