Matt’s Past SAT/ACT News Update:

Matt O'Connor

Dec 14, 2017

Indiana’s State Board of Education has voted to overhaul the State’s graduation requirements. The proposed changes (which would take effect for the high school class of 2023 if approved by the General Assembly) would replace the ISTEP end-of-course assessments and replace them with either/or the SAT or ACT. The general thrust of the changes is to place more focus on career readiness for high school students. State educators remain skeptical of the proposals.

Here are two articles covering developments in Indiana:

1. Earning an Indiana high school diploma just became a lot more complicated
2. Pushing SAT, ACT tests likely overreaching, educators say

Here are several articles related to the recent adoption of the SAT as the high school assessment in Illinois, and the controversial setting of minimum scores to display competency (540 on both sections of the test) that are above those cited by the College Board as being the minimum to demonstrate college-and career-readiness (480 for reading and writing, and 530 for math).

To Be 'Proficient' in Illinois, You Have to Be More Than College-Ready


Illinois has decided that in order to be considered “proficient” on its statewide high school test, students will have to earn a higher score on the SAT than the one that’s correlated with college readiness.

The decision has touched a nerve in national testing debates about how states should meaningfully measure high school achievement and report it clearly to parents.

As part of its work to create an accountability system for its schools, the Illinois state board of education decided last month that students will be deemed proficient if they score 540 on each section of the SAT, the exam Illinois uses to measure high school achievement.

Each section of the college-admissions exam is scored from 200 to 800. The College Board considers students “college ready” if they score 480 in English and 530 in math. That means they have a 75 percent chance of earning a C or better in entry-level, credit-bearing college classes.

Other than influencing their chances of college admission, scores below the 540 cutoff won’t affect Illinois students, since their grades and graduation are not linked to their scores.

But Illinois schools have a lot on the line in the new plan; their students’ average SAT scores will count for 20 percent of their academic rating in the report card Illinois issues for each public school.

Also regarding the Illinois SAT benchmarks:

District 207 superintendent: State set 'artificial' standards for SAT performance

(Jennifer Johnson, Chicago Tribune)


A local high school superintendent has some sharp criticism for the state board of education after recently released school report cards show only half of all students meeting or exceeding state-set standards on the SAT college entrance exam.

Ken Wallace, superintendent of Maine Township High School District 207, accused the state board of creating "artificial" standards and making them tougher to meet so that high school performance better matches that of the PARCC assessment. The PARCC is taken by elementary school students and was referred to by Wallace as "a bad test."

"They're trying to get high school rates to match the elementary school rates," Wallace said.

Oregon announced in May that it would drop the Smarter Balanced exam after the current school year. The State is currently considering adopting the SAT or ACT as its high school assessment. Among the class of 2017, 15,900 students took the SAT, and 14,600 took the ACT.

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post interviewed author Daniel Koretz about his new book, The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better. Koretz is also the author of Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us, which addresses the SAT in many respects.

Another Washington Post article ("What Vanderbilt, Northwestern and other elite colleges don’t say about acceptance rates") addresses the surge in applications (which had 36% of college applicants submitting 7 or more applications in 2015, versus only 9% doing so in 1991), the ways in which colleges manipulate acceptance rates, and how the widely-used Barron's college selectivity categories have not kept pace with recent changes in college admissions. The article raises good points about acceptance rates, which include many marginal or unqualified applicants who are incentivized to apply to selective colleges despite a minuscule chance of acceptance. As pointed out by the example below taken from the article, if acceptance rates were calculated by weighting the percentage of enrollees derived from each admissions round and the acceptance rate for each round, overall acceptance rates for the freshman class as a whole would be much higher:

"Northwestern University, for instance, in a recent year announced it had reached a record-low acceptance rate. What it didn’t make clear is that its early decision acceptance rate was 35 percent and it filled 55 percent of its class that way."

From Compass Prep, a detailed article about the impending implementation of online SAT/ACT testing:

Online Testing Is Coming

Erica Meltzer weighs in on what she calls The Biggest Lie in College Admissions" : the issue of expensive professional help in writing college admissions essays:


What admissions officers cannot know – and have no reliable way of finding out – is how many essays they’ve looked at that have been massaged, shall we say, by adults who are familiar with how college essays typically sound. Adults who know exactly how college essays typically sound and can convincingly channel, or even replicate, a 17-year-old’s voice – warts and all. Adults who are paid thousands of dollars precisely because they possess this skill.

Besides, if admissions officers were really and truly able to flag every essay that had received too much help, the market for $16,000 essay boot camps would dry up pretty quickly. The fact that business is going strong suggests that this type of assistance is actually highly successful (my personal experience supports this as well), and that admissions officers are perfectly happy to turn a blind eye to it.

A worrisome concept regarding the relationship between testing and classroom teaching: "Backwards Designing Curriculum From The SAT"


At my school, students can get A’s in all our classes, yet score relatively low on the SAT. A plausible explanation for this discrepancy is a misalignment between what we test in our classrooms and the content of the SAT. Troubled by this possibility, I endeavored to re-engineer our Algebra 2 curriculum around the SAT. We can deride it as “teaching to the test,” but backwards design is a well-respected approach to building curriculum.

There have been a few test optional policy adoptions in recent months. The College of St. Elizabeth in NJ made an announcement in October. [See the attached and updated chart for test optional announcements by year since 2000].

Test Optional Chart

From the New York Times, the perils of relying on technology to always function correctly:

College Application Website Went Down as Deadline Looms