By Jane Dail
The Daily Reflector
March 11, 2014
Area school officials are curious to see how recently announced changes to the SAT exam will affect scores and college admission.
The College Board, which administers the SAT, released information last week that it would change several aspects of the exam in 2016, including testing on vocabulary words regularly used in college and beyond, focusing on more practical math areas, having the test available in print and on a computer, and not deducting points for incorrect answers.
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David Jenkins, Pitt County Schools director of 9-12 and accountability, said the changes will be drastic for test-takers, because it has been refocused to be more relevant.
“To me, they’re catching up with what schools are now doing,” Jenkins said. “What is happening is we’re working to make sure students are career- and college-ready. I would say they are designing their test to measure (if students are) career- and college-ready.”
Jenkins said the SAT traditionally has gauged what students could learn rather than what they already know, and the new changes will help in that.
“I think they’re going start looking at more critical-thinking skills for our students, and that is what is needed now for students to be college- and career-ready,” he said
John Fletcher, East Carolina University associate provost for enrollment services, said changing the scoring system, which no longer will deduct points for incorrect answers, could affect minimum requirements if there is an increase in average SAT scores. Fletcher said this likely will not change the way ECU selects potential students for admission.
“For us, unless we were to see on average phenomenally higher scores — which I don’t know that we will, I don’t know that anyone knows at this point — it will be interesting to see if the state actually raises that minimum admission requirement,” he said. “ … But really in terms of how we examine students, it would really be the same. I would not see it changing our admissions philosophy dramatically.”
Fletcher said grade point average still will be a significant component in admission, because SATs are a measure of how someone performed in one day.
Applicants to ECU also can submit an ACT exam score. Fletcher said if SAT scores are affected by the change, concordance tables, which helps determine what SAT score is comparable to the ACT, also will be updated.
“With the changing of the SAT, those tables will have to be redeveloped,” he said. “That’s something that we will certainly address as quickly as we can.”
The essay portion of the exam, which was incorporated about nine years ago, no longer will be required. Students still have the option to take it, but it will be given a separate score, with the scores returning to a 1,600-point scale.
The College Board’s decision to no longer require the essay will have little to no effect at many institutions. Fletcher said ECU does not consider the written portion of the SAT in “normal admissions decisions.”
Jenkins said when the essay was incorporated, it was not a popular change. He said he is unsure of how many colleges and universities use it to make decisions.
“Our writing skills are important,” he said. “Traditionally, I’m not sure many colleges look at what the score is for admissions.”
The College Board also announced it would provide four free waivers to apply to college for income-eligible students.
Fletcher said the language from the College Board is vague, but it is not referring to application fees for applying to universities and colleges. He said eligible students previously have received waivers, though a possible reason for allowing four would be because students who apply to at least four schools are more likely to attend a four-year institution.
“We consider ourselves to be an access institution, we do grant waivers for the application fee,” Fletcher said. “One of the documents we examine when we grant those waivers would be whether or not the student was awarded an SAT or ACT waiver for that test, that’s one the things that helps us make a decision.”
The College Board also revealed it will help provide free test preparation materials for the redesigned SAT in 2016.
The board is partnering with Khan Academy, a nonprofit that provides free online educational materials, to provide free interactive software to help fill in learning gaps.
Fletcher said SAT preparation materials traditionally have been expensive.
“That has got to be a tremendous benefit to the students and parents,” he said.
Jenkins said the materials will help improve SAT scores and also improve academic success.
“This certainly gives all students the opportunity to get this assistance and preparing for the SAT in order to do better,” he said. “Any time you can provide a resource for students to learn, then that’s great.”