A New SAT Is Coming… Eventually

Last week, College Board CEO David Coleman made waves by sending out an email announcement about changes coming to the SAT. Coleman, who started leading The College Board in October, has wasted no time in making his mark on the organization and on the exam. While the details are murky and the timing is still “TBD,” it is clear that Coleman doesn’t want to wait before tweaking the SAT.

The last major change to the SAT came in 2005, when the test dropped analogies and introduced the Writing section, and re-branded the Verbal section as Critical Reading. While The College Board has always insisted that the Writing section is actually the test’s best predictor of a student’s college performance, Coleman has made it very clear that he’s not a big fan of the section, previously calling it an “opinion piece” that doesn’t put enough emphasis on synthesizing arguments from given information. In the new email announcement, Coleman seems to have softened his tone, although his intentions are still pretty clear.

This is part of Coleman’s announcement:

First administered in 1926, the SAT was created to democratize access to higher education for all students. Today the SAT serves as both a measure of students’ college and career readiness and a predictor of college outcomes. In its current form, the SAT is aligned to the Common Core as well as or better than any assessment that has been developed for college admission and placement, and serves as a valuable tool for educators and policymakers. While the SAT is the best standardized measure of college and career readiness currently available, the College Board has a responsibility to the millions of students we serve each year to ensure that our programs are continuously evaluated and enhanced, and most importantly respond to the emerging needs of those we serve.

Why the Common Core connection? Coleman actually helped create the new Common Core standards before joining The College Board, so it’s not surprising that he wants to see the SAT become better at measuring what the Common Core is designed to teach.

Market forces have likely also had an impact on this decision. Last year, for the first time, ACT volume actually topped SAT volume in the United States. Was this the wake up call that The College Board needed to bring in a non-nonsense guy like Coleman to shake up the organization? Some have pointed out that this announcement means that the SAT will simply become more like the ACT, although we suspect Coleman won’t be satisfied to stop there.

As our own Shaan Patel told Inside Higher Ed, this change will probably cause a good deal of anxiety among students. However, The College Board is still in the very, very early stages of researching new testing types and getting input from countless stakeholders. While no concrete timetable has been given, we suspect that it will be at least several years before the first high school students take the new, new SAT.