Will Changes to the SAT Help College-Bound Blacks?

collegeboard-thumbThe College Board has announced sweeping new changes to the SAT college entrance examination. The test has been criticized on many fronts but one of the major complaints is that the examination handicaps college access for Blacks and other minorities. And the results on the SAT test shut out many Black students from some scholarship competitions.

Here are some of the planned changes:

  • Beginning in the spring of 2016, students will no longer be required to take the essay portion of the SAT. But the writing section of the test will still be offered on an optional basis.
  • The mathematics sections of the SAT will focus on three key areas that most contribute to student readiness for college and career training, according to the College Board. Calculators will not be permitted on some sections of the math SAT. Vocabulary questions will only contain words widely used in college and the career marketplace.
  • In the past, students were not advised to guess unless they could narrow the choices for the correct answer down to two options. Now there will be no penalty for wrong answers, only points for correct answers. In some locations, students will be able to take the SAT on computers.
  • khan-logo-vertical-transparentIn a key development, the College Board has contracted with Khan Academy to offer free test preparation services for all students. Critics of the SAT have maintained that coaching classes, available only to students from high-income households, give an unfair advantage to students who could afford the coaching.

But the revision of the SAT has met with skepticism from some long-time critics of the test. Bob Schaeffer, of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing, issued a statement which read in part, “The revised test is unlikely to be better than the current one. It will not predict college success more accurately, assess low-income students more fairly, or be less susceptible to high-priced commercial coaching courses.”

“Providing free SAT prep is laudable,” Schaeffer continued. But “the partnership with the Khan Academy is unlikely to make a dent in the huge market for high-priced, personalized SAT workshops and tutoring that only well-to-do families can afford. Like most of the other College Board initiatives announced today, this move is less significant than its promoters claim.”

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