Posts Tagged ‘ testing ’

Essay Optional, Other Changes Coming to the SAT

Friday, March 7th, 2014

The SAT college entrance exam is undergoing a series of changes, one of which is that the essay portion, which was added in 2005, will become optional, with a separate score from the rest of the test.  The Associated Press reports on these and other changes, which will take effect in the 2016 test:

The new SAT will continue to test reading, writing and math skills, with an emphasis on analysis. Scoring will be on a 1,600-point scale, with a separate score for the optional essay.

Students will have the option of taking the test on a computer.

One of the biggest changes is that the extra penalty for wrong answers, which discouraged guessing, will be eliminated. And some vocabulary words will be replaced with words such as ‘‘synthesis’’ and ‘‘empirical’’ that are used more widely in classrooms and in work settings.

‘‘By changing the exam’s focus, we change the learning and work the SAT invites. Today, many students who are terrified they will be tested on lots of SAT words have one recourse: flashcards,’’ Coleman said. ‘‘Every educator knows flashcards are not the best way to build real word knowledge, but when the SAT rolls around they become the royal road. Students stop reading and start flipping.’’

The essay will be changed in other ways, too. It will measure students’ ability to analyze and explain how an author builds an argument, instead of measuring the coherence of the writing but not the quality or accuracy of the reasoning. It will be up to school districts and colleges the students apply to as to whether the essay will be required.

Instead of testing a wide range of math concepts, the new exam will focus on a few areas, like algebra, deemed most needed for college and life afterward. A calculator will be allowed only on certain math questions, instead of on the entire math portion.

Image: Test answer sheet, via Shutterstock

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U.S. Teens Lag Behind Asian Students in Education Rankings

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

American teenagers are continuing to slip in the rankings of high school achievement internationally, according to the results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).  Americans were found to be roughly average in science and reading, but below the international average in math. NBC News has more:

Vietnam, which had its students take part in the exam for the first time, had a higher average score in math and science than the United States. Students in Shanghai — China’s largest city with upwards of 20 million people — ranked best in the world, according to the test results. Students in East Asian countries and provinces came out on top, nabbing seven of the top 10 places across all three subjects.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan characterized the flat scores as a “picture of educational stagnation.”

“We must invest in early education, raise academic standards, make college affordable, and do more to recruit and retain top-notch educators,” Duncan said.

Roughly half a million students in 65 nations and educational systems representing 80 percent of the global economy took part in the 2012 edition of PISA, which is coordinated by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.

The numbers are even more sobering when compared among only the 34 OECD countries. The United States ranked 26th in math — trailing nations such as the Slovakia, Portugal and Russia.

The exam, which has been administered every three years to 15-year-olds, is designed to gauge how students use the material they have learned inside and outside the classroom to solve problems.

U.S. scores on the PISA have stayed relatively flat since testing began in 2000. And meanwhile, students in countries like Ireland and Poland have demonstrated marked improvement — even surpassing U.S. students, according to the results.

Top Talkers: Teenagers are making no progress on international achievement exams, the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment results show. Jon Meacham, Julie Pace and Mike Barnicle discuss.

“It’s hard to get excited about standing still while others around you are improving, so I don’t want to be too positive,” Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, told the Associated Press.

Image: Students taking a test, via Shutterstock

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