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College Board To Rethink the SAT, Partner With Khan Academy 134

Posted by Soulskill
from the abba-cadaba dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to the NY Times, 'Saying its college admission exams do not focus enough on the important academic skills, the College Board announced on Wednesday a fundamental rethinking of the SAT, eliminating obligatory essays, ending the longstanding penalty for guessing wrong and cutting obscure vocabulary words. ... The SAT's rarefied vocabulary words will be replaced by words that are common in college courses, such as "empirical" and "synthesis." The math questions, now scattered widely across many topics, will focus more narrowly on linear equations, functions and proportional thinking. The use of a calculator will no longer be allowed on some of the math sections.' The College Board will also be working with Khan Academy to provide students with free, online practice problems and instructional videos. The new version of the SAT will be introduced in 2016."
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College Board To Rethink the SAT, Partner With Khan Academy

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  • by Dan East (318230) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @07:19PM (#46413955) Homepage Journal

    KHAAAAAAN!!!!

    Yeah yeah. I have karma to burn.

  • by Jade_Butterfly (3564465) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @07:24PM (#46413993)
    The current college entrance tests make it easy to game the system, even for someone like me, who had an ultra low high school GPA. They test knowledge that is easy to learn during a few last minute cramming sessions. These changes might actually make them fair tests.
    • I don't know what "fair" means, but I really don't see where they're improving these tests so that they test for something other than rote memorization.

      • "Rote" memorization? Care to expound? How are the exam's existing compositional components samplings of rote memorization? How is the reading comprehension so? Beyond knowing formulas, how are the computational components of the SAT tests of rote memorization? What is it of a high school student that you want tested, exactly? U.S. students who score highly on "IQ" tests also perform highly on the SAT (http://www.sq.4mg.com/IQ-SAT.htm). It is not only an examination of what one knows, but more signifi
        • How are the exam's existing compositional components samplings of rote memorization?

          Really, it's just following rules you memorized and writing how they want you to write.

          Beyond knowing formulas, how are the computational components of the SAT tests of rote memorization?

          That's just an example of applying the procedures they memorized.

          What is it of a high school student that you want tested, exactly?

          Whether or not they have a deep, intuitive understanding of the material (how and why it works).

          U.S. students who score highly on "IQ" tests also perform highly on the SAT

          Which might just mean people with high IQs are good test takers, not that they're intelligent, or that the SAT is a good test.

          IQ is mere pseudoscience, anyway.

          It certainly measures how quickly all of this can be done, given that it is a time-limited exam together with punishing incorrect answers (guesses).

          And it's still just a ridiculous multiple choice test, with a few other things (essays) thrown in. Also,

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not only are college students incapable of effective written communication, no one will know about it until they show up in your class the first week and turn in a paper written in nothing but accordion paragraphs.

    • by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @08:05PM (#46414319)

      Your test is showing that too many students are unprepared for college? Well, we can solve that problem -- just change the test!

      There's something fundamentally wrong with our schools when it is a rarity for a high school graduate to be capable of composing a short written essay.

  • by TheSync (5291) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @07:26PM (#46414007) Journal

    I thought the goal of the SAT was to predict performance in college, not to gauge "important academic skills".

    I suspect actual college performance is best predicted by having the students drink, do drugs, and have sex all night - then have a high-stakes test at 6AM in the morning! (You score some for just making it out of bed BTW)

    • by tompaulco (629533) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @07:35PM (#46414071) Homepage Journal
      The goal of the SAT used to be to predict performance in college. Now it is used to predict how much effort one is willing to put into it to game the system. When I took the SAT, it was not something you studied for or took multiple times. You took it once, it showed how much you had learned, and you moved on. Now, there are college prep courses that focus on learning how to do better at the SAT. if you have lots of money and time, you can buy your way to a better grade. It has nothing to do with what you have learned in high school or how you will perform at university. Well, maybe it does show that you might be willing to throw gobs of cash at tutors and whatnot while at university. So maybe it is a positive predictor. After all, Universities are not about teaching, they are about making money. If you happen to learn something along the way, so much the better.
      • by zlives (2009072)

        " Universities are not about teaching, they are about making money"
        +1 insightful. i continue to be impressed by the football programs though.

      • by NoKaOi (1415755)

        Now it is used to predict how much effort one is willing to put into it to game the system.

        Which sounds like a pretty good indication of certain aspects of college success (not the only one, of course). It's an indicator of being able to do what it takes to succeed. Part of what makes college different from a vocational school is that you have to have a broader range of knowledge, which pretty much takes the form of requiring some classes you probably don't want to take, either because they are a prerequisite for an interesting class or in another discipline. And even in the subjects that are

        • by TheSync (5291)

          Oh, and before you say "that's why college is stupid" it's also a good indicator of job success. No matter what your job, you're going to have to do things you don't want to.

          You would think we could come up with a test cheaper than a $100K+ college education to determine if people are willing to do things they don't want to - perhaps it would be like that reality show "Fear Factor"...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "The goal of the SAT used to be to predict performance in college. Now it is used to predict how much effort one is willing to put into it to game the system"

        Uhhh... Maybe I went to a different college than everyone else.... but... Isn't that a predictor of college performance?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        When I was entering college (20 years ago, BTW) the SAT was even then something you took multiple times. Scholarship dollars were tied *directly* to your score on the SAT at many institutions. Improvements to your score the second time were generally pretty small, but when so much was riding on the line, spending the money (what, $30 back then?) to take it a second time might well be worth it.

      • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @10:06PM (#46415261)

        The goal of the SAT used to be to predict performance in college. Now it is used to predict how much effort one is willing to put into it to game the system.

        Well, it's always been about trying to predict college performance. Back in the late 60s through early 90s, it was a stable test format, normed rigorously through decades of testing, which was basically an IQ test and advanced reading comprehension test. Things like analogies and vocab testing both how well-read you were and your abstract ability to connect subtleties of meaning; things like quantitative comparisons tested logic and reasoning skills outside of normal basic math.

        Then it was renormed in the mid 90s to make it about 100 points easier -- it no longer really could distinguish the top of the scale (which, if you look at the stats, appeared to be disappearing -- the actual number of perfect 1600s went down significantly in the 80s despite increases in number of test takers). The high-level critical reasoning was less stressed in many college programs too.

        Gradually, over the past couple decades, the test has been further dumbed down, to service the increasing number of people who want to go to college and the decreasing number of people with high-level literacy and advanced critical reasoning. Analogies and quantitative comparisons disappeared. They added a writing test, but studies showed that the easiest way to get a high score was to write a longer essay, not actually have a stronger argument (at least not above some really basic level).

        Increasingly, the test rewarded preparation instead of things harder to teach in some sort of crash prep course, like abstract reasoning.

        The latest revisions just follow further in the efforts to service large number of unprepared people who want to attend college. Nobody reads at a high level anymore, so why bother with vocabulary beyond the basics? The test is aiming to be relevant for the average person, which is not where it started -- as an IQ test for the elite. At this point, it's not any better than high school grades for predicting college performance (and actually worse for people with high SAT scores but low GPAs, since it then basically is testing prep skills access to fancy crash courses, rather than higher-level reasoning). So they're basically turning it into a glorified set of midterm high school exams.

        • by galabar (518411)
          One of the most insightful comments I've read on Slashdot.
        • How about citing some sources for your claims.
          • How about reading the Wikipedia article on the history of the SAT? And look up stats on the gradual decline in actual number of test scores above 600 particularly on verbal before the test was "fixed" in the 90s? The one error I made was mistaking the era of relative stability, which actually went from the late 50s through the 90s (with a few changes and reduced length along the way)... I wrote this without rereading anything else first.
      • Well, the use of the word "prediction" aside, it IS CORRELATED with performance in college more so than any other measure...so it's not a meaningless test, at least at the population level. I believe it's correlated at around 0.3 which is very high for social science...whereas HS GPA is more like 0.25.

        Nonetheless, none of what I wrote above means that it is a good test, I'm sure there's room for improvement. Sounds like these are good changes coming.

        • by neonfrog (442362)
          Depends who you ask. [npr.org] According to that study [nacacnet.org]: ".. another clear result: High school grades matter — a lot. For both those students who submitted their test results to their colleges and those who did not, high school grades were the best predictor of a student's success in college."

          I wonder if this study has the College Board a little worried about their relevance. Does the SAT make them a little money?

      • There have always been SAT prep courses. The dumb kids that took them still did worse than the smart kids who treated it as a joke and stayed up all night partying the night before.

    • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @08:00PM (#46414277)

      we need more trades / tech schools / apprenticeships so college can go back to it's roots and be filled with people who should be in some other place that is both a better fit for them and is better at teaching real hands on skills.

      • There's no manufacturing to speak of in America. It costs too much to employe Americans. If you bring back manufacturing you bring robots to automate 90% of it.

        Turns out, the world doesn't really need ditch diggers anymore...
        • and we don't need people loaded with theory but lacking in skills needed to do the job.

        • Re:For what jobs? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by lgw (121541) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:13PM (#46414827) Journal

          There's never been a decade where the amount of manufacturing in America has dropped. The manufacturing jobs have all gone, but the whole "bring robots to automate 90% of it" thing has been happening for 30 years now, and is mostly complete. The main reason China is having a crisis with its manufacturing sector is America is finally automating the tail end of stuff we used to send to China.

          Yet we still have a school system tuned for producing manufacturing workers. We're not in a good place - we're about 20 years late in transforming our schools to produce engineers and artists instead.
           

          • Yeah, but what do we do with all the people. Japan is lousy with engineers, but their economy sucks. Plus we just don't _need_ that many highly skilled engineers. Sure, we could always use more Einsteins, but they're one in a million genetic freaks. We can't just stamp those guys out no matter how much we try.
          • Actually our school system is tuned to producing neither.

            If we were producing manufacturing workers, you'd see way more vocational programs with companies deeply involved in apprenticing students so that by the time they are 16 they can go work in the factory or as a skilled laborer.

            We should be producing BOTH. The economy would benefit from both.

            • by lgw (121541)

              There's no need for manufacturing workers, paper shufflers, or really unskilled labor of any kind in the decades to come. If it can be automated, it will be automated.

              What we need are skills of any kind, from design engineers to interior designers. If we follow the pattern established for automation, we'll mostly be doing stuff for one another that used to be done only for the rich. Jobs with a bit of creativity required, and a lot of legwork, from personal shopper to home theater installation. Plumbers

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Such misinformation.
          The US was #1 for the longest time, only in the last year or so has China exceeded the manufacturing output of the US, and only by a few percent.
          There are relatively few manufacturing jobs due to automation, but saying the US doesn't make anything is competely wrong.

          • I would be interested in a real breakdown of 'make anything', and how that's measured.
            It's a really hard thing to measure.
            There are obvious things to measure - for example - total factory gate revenue.
            You get very different numbers if you measure retail sales.

            Similarly - a company imports 8 Chinese parts for $100, puts it in a $20 box, and sells for $400.

            Getting the right numbers is hard.

        • by benzapp (464105)

          The problem is intelligence is entirely genetic.

          Turns out, anyone with an IQ less than 100 is economically obsolete and is easily replaced by a machine. The majority of humans have an IQ of less than 100.

          So, the question becomes, what do we do with these people?

          • by uncqual (836337)

            A question I ask often (and get lambasted for because it's "politically incorrect").

            We (the US and the entire world) must find an answer to this. The industrial revolution provided jobs for those displaced from agriculture by steam tractors and the like. This time, automation is replacing the humans both through directly replacing them and by "self serve" which is just more efficient than the "full serve" model (web retailers, self checkout, self serve gas stations). There doesn't seem to be anywhere for th

            • by dougg76 (1078049)
              This could cut both ways. We might be getting to a point where a globalized economy will reduce the need of "high IQ" people in favor of people that will be happy in service industries (cooking, house cleaning, etc). You really only need so many engineers if there is only a few large companies in the world producing new goods.
          • by dougg76 (1078049)
            It would be nice if we used something more relevant than IQ. Why do people bring up IQ so much when its pretty much a meaningless metric?
        • The Newport News Shipyard has a well known apprenticeship program [as.edu] with a full school and everything. I know several people who got their bachelors degree there and were working and getting paid while they did it. They now work to design the ship and sub components. My own brother was in it for a while before he switched to an outside school (still paid for by his employer) and is working on his master's degree as we speak. The Hampton Roads area alone has several large shipyards, large manufacturing pl
      • Never going to happen. trade schools do not have fraternities and are too much like working. Apprenticeship are great, for a career, and for learning, but they are not high school 2.0, with more drinking, sex, and drugs, so they are never going to attract 99% of the college going population.

      • The unemployment rate for plumbers and electricians in the U.S. is around 10%. Worse for other trades. A lot of people in the trades who do have jobs or own businesses are barely scraping by. The shortage of tradesmen in the U.S. is as fictional as the STEM shortage.

    • I thought the goal of the SAT was to predict performance in college, not to gauge "important academic skills".

      It sure wasn't meant to test your understanding of the material; rote memorization 'geniuses' (the majority) love that.

    • People already retake the test too often...with your approach they'd be retaking it every day!

  • by MacAndrew (463832) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @07:34PM (#46414065) Homepage

    While they debate what to do ... the Board itself should be challenged for its power and profiteering. They overcharge for things that should be dirt cheap like score reporting, keep pumping out more and more tests, and have surprisingly little proof of the validity of the tests themselves. Meanwhile the test prep industry is making millions, providing (or insinuating) false claims of what they can deliver, and helping wealth discrimination.

    Closely timed fill-in-the-bubble test-taking skills are not valuable life skills, in college or elsewhere. FWIW I'm speaking as someone who got near-perfect SAT scores, as did my son, and have to admit it's a scam. The scores do mean *something,* but it's all gotten out of control. GPA is the single best predictor of performance. (But don't get me started on grade inflation....)

    • The scores do mean *something,*

      Well, if the person does poorly, it might indicate that they don't understand the material and that they didn't memorize it. It fails to eliminate the majority of the people who pass the test who don't understand why anything works.

      GPA is the single best predictor of performance.

      GPA is the best predictor that you might have a rote memorization genius, an ass kisser, a rich kid, and/or someone who took lots of easy classes on your hands.

      • GPA is the best predictor that you might have a rote memorization genius, an ass kisser, a rich kid, and/or someone who took lots of easy classes on your hands.

        Eh. At my engineering-focused selective high school the kids who got the best grades were the ones that worked the hardest. The valedictorian and salutatorian were actually two of the least likely people to cheat. They just made a point of always completing their assignments and always being as prepared as possible for tests. In terms of SAT sco

        • At my engineering-focused selective high school the kids who got the best grades were the ones that worked the hardest.

          Working hard and understanding what you're doing are two different things. Most people work hard to memorize the information schools expect them to memorize, but they don't understand shit.

          • Working hard and understanding what you're doing are two different things.

            Sure. But that's not what you originally said. You laid out the options as: "rote memorization genius", "ass kisser", "rich kid" or "someone who took lots of easy classes". The classmates of mine who got the best grades weren't necessarily any better at memorizing facts than I was. Unlike me, however, they took the time to complete their assignments and made a point of preparing before tests. Whereas I might actually have had m

            • Sure. But that's not what you originally said.

              Well, it was one of the options (rote memorization geniuses), at least. I didn't mean that their memories have to be amazing, but that they memorize the material without understanding it. I call the people (seemingly the majority) who manage to slip by all these classes and tests without understanding the material "rote memorization geniuses" or "Jeopardy! geniuses." I've seen a lot of those people, and many of them did work hard to accomplish what they were trying to do (memorize material).

              Whereas I might actually have had more aptitude for memorizing facts than they did, they had a clearly superior work ethic and better time management skills: two things that strongly correlate with success in college (and the work force).

              That's mediocrit

              • Well, it was one of the options (rote memorization geniuses), at least. I didn't mean that their memories have to be amazing, but that they memorize the material without understanding it.

                Ah, I misunderstood. Still, I'm not so quick to dismiss it all as rote memorization. I mean, we took a differential equations class together; it wasn't just memorizing multiplication tables. AP Physics, History, English Lit. and Comp., Computer Science, etc. Sometimes it takes effort to learn things; effort I wasn't wi

                • Ah, I misunderstood. Still, I'm not so quick to dismiss it all as rote memorization. I mean, we took a differential equations class together; it wasn't just memorizing multiplication tables.

                  It doesn't really need to be memorization multiplication tables for it to be rote memorization; it could be the memorization of other facts, patterns, or procedures.

                  Dude. "The work force" isn't an artificial environment.

                  I didn't specifically say that it was. I was referring to schools and colleges.

                  "Work ethic" and "time management skills" are just as important there (if not more so) than in school.

                  "Work ethic" is vague. Some people seem to think it means being an obedient worker drone, and that's what I can't get behind. Time management skills are fine, but I prefer not to learn according to someone else's schedule, so formal education has never been for me.

                  • Work ethic = ability to force yourself to do things you don't naturally want to do. Like grind out a programming assignment that's not intrinsically interesting. Work ethic = willingness to inconvenience one's self to get something done by a deadline. Work ethic = insistence on doing quality work instead of being willfully sloppy.

                    These kinds of things won't make you the next Steve Jobs, but not having them (and not being brilliant) will probably have a large negative impact on your performance both in
                    • Work ethic = ability to force yourself to do things you don't naturally want to do.

                      I have the ability, but I'm just not a mindless drone that does whatever he's told (unlike worker drones). I can see why this would be a highly desirable trait for schools and employers, but fortunately, I have a lot of leeway at my job. The point is, many employers and schools seem to think that everyone should be obedient worker drones, and again, that's the mentality I can't get behind.

                      These kinds of things won't make you the next Steve Jobs, but not having them (and not being brilliant) will probably have a large negative impact on your performance both in school and in the work force.

                      A grand majority of people are by no means brilliant, and yet they do fairly well (better than they should) in the work

                    • Yeah. To be honest, it sounds like you kind of have a problem with authority. If I knew ahead of time that, in the event of an unresolvable technical disagreement, a candidate would rather quit than work within a technical vision that isn't to their liking...that's probably not a candidate I'd hire. Certainly I value folks who aren't afraid to voice disagreement and back it up with persuasive arguments; I'm not so inflexible that I can't be swayed. But if your attitude is essentially "I do things exactl
                    • To be honest, it sounds like you kind of have a problem with authority.

                      Rather, it's that other people are unthinking drones, so I may seem extreme by comparison. All I'm saying is that I don't mindlessly follow orders; that's all.

                      But if your attitude is essentially "I do things exactly the way I want to do them or I'm out of here" then you're not someone I'd want as part of a team.

                      That's not quite it. But I work in teams all the time and seem to do just fine. Maybe I just found a non-shitty work environment.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If scores go down after this it will be received as proof that kids today are all morons.

    If scores go up after this it will be received as proof that they had to dumb down the test because kids today are all morons.

  • it's really nice to hear the the test that almost totally defined my future opportunities that I took when i was 16 (1982), barely old enough to understand much about career and life...

    when what collage you were accepted to and what you were to study pretty much defined how successful you could be (thank god those times are changing fast, tbh)... ...has been "fundamentally rethought" and judged wanting in many areas...

    what is this really telling people in my age group??

    "whoops...sorry about that...d

    • Re:nice... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by oodaloop (1229816) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @07:46PM (#46414171)
      I think it might still grade spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc so you're still out of "luch".
      • I believe a "luch" is a giant balding North American ape; essentially an embiggened quijibo.
        You might know of it as the "Luch Ness Monster," though the original spelling got lost in the mists of time.

      • by Nemyst (1383049)
        He could definitely take some collage courses though, those don't require high SAT results!
      • yeah...i get it...thanks i really couldn't tell that luck was spelled wrong and that i don't follow typical conventions.

        i'm glad my 9th grade english teacher is reading slashdot these days....whowuddathunk?

    • From another Gen X'er, just face it, we're screwed. By the time the boomers die (because a small number of them cashed in on dismantling the pensions; so no one can afford to retire) employers will be wanting young millennials, fresh out of college.

  • than I learned in 4 years of high school.

    Any role Khan is allowed to play in formal education is a great thing.

  • So basically they're going to dumb down the test so that the scores will be higher.

  • basketball and football need minor leagues so they don't end up Dumbing down for people who should not be there. Not saying that all of them are really bumb but lot's of them can be better both playing and learning a trade and / or going to a tech school.

  • Sounds like the College Board will concentrate on evaluating an increasingly dysfunctional middle and abandoning the top 0.1-2% with the SAT. Probably a battery of advanced, expensive achievement / AP tests for the top 2%-5% well educated students, forget about finding untrained native ability. This is a disaster to the poor but promising who can't afford to great schools.
  • Removing the penalty for guessing on a timed multiple choice test is dumb. It will only penalize those test takers who don't realize its now advantageous to guess on all remaining questions (as opposed to leaving them blank) if they're about to run out of time and haven't finished a section.
  • by khb (266593)

    Essay writing isn't a key skill useful for college or thereafter?

    Penalizing students for guessing is somehow no longer a good idea?

    I appreciate their thinking about the issues, but the conclusions seem odd to me.

    • by dougg76 (1078049)
      The problem is more along the lines of how would an essay in a timed test have any real meaning at all? Metrics will be implemented to ensure that the essay score is not too arbitrary, leading to students just gaming the metrics. Essays are too much of a human thing to be used in these types of test, they will be reduced down to nothingness. It's really just another arbitrary method to eliminate opportunities for people.
  • Anyone have any examples of the "rarefied vocabulary" used by the SAT?

    • RUNNER: MARATHON ::
      A) envoy: embassy
      B) martyr: massacre
      C) oarsman: regatta
      D) referee: tournament
      E) horse: stable

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