Sunday, August 04, 2013

A Sneak Peak at the new SAT and ACT

The NY Times posted a story about the SAT (owned by The College Board) and ACT and how they are changing in the next few years.

 Big changes are coming to the nation’s two competing admissions tests.

Mr. Coleman, who became president last October, is intent on rethinking the SAT to make it an instrument that meshes with what students are learning in their classrooms. Meanwhile, the ACT, which has always been more curriculum-based, is the first of the two to move into the digital age. In adapting its test for the computer, ACT Inc. is tiptoeing past the fill-in-the-bubble Scantron sheets toward more creative, hands-on questions.

In their own ways, both organizations are striving to produce something beyond a college admissions test. ACT plans to start yearly testing as early as third grade to help guide students to college readiness. One of Mr. Coleman’s goals is for the College Board to help low-income students see broader college possibilities.        
The changes to ACT are not necessarily just a result of Common Core Standards being released either,  ACT and College Board were early partner with the NGA and the CCSSO in the initiative before the standards were released. 

"The Common Core State Standards Initiative is led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, in partnership with ACT, the College Board, and Achieve."
So while the SAT and ACT may seem like competitors in the testing marketplace, they appear to be  more like companions on a journey toward one national P-20 college readiness testing track.    

As part of the Common Core, two assessment consortia, SBA and PARCC, were developed to design tests for participating states.  But is that the long term plan, given that ACT and SAT were both "partners" in the development of the Common Core?  

Consider the following:

1.  Chester Finn of the Fordham Foundation speculated that Smarter Balanced and PARCC Assessment Consortia may not be around forever.
"I expect that PARCC and Smarter Balanced (the two federally subsidized consortia of states that are developing new assessments meant to be aligned with Common Core standards) will fade away, eclipsed and supplanted by long-established yet fleet-footed testing firms that already possess the infrastructure, relationships, and durability that give them huge advantages in the competition for state and district business." 
2.  Cynthia B. Schmeiser former President and Chief Operating Officer of ACT, came out of retirement after 38 years at ACT., to take a new position as chief of assessments with College Board.  She also serves on the Nation Governors Association–Gates National Advisory Committee, among other committees focused on P–20 improvement 

Because education is a long-term process, a continuous process, we need to look at assessment as being in the service of education, by looking at it as a coherent system, not as just a point in time, but across time, within the whole educational process," 
A good system of assessment, Schmeiser said, would be used "earlier, to inform the educational process."
IF SAT truly were a competitor to ACT, they would need an "early" assessment system.  Education Week asked Schmeiser,  "Would the College Board seek to build a comprehensive system of tests, like the two federally funded state consortia [SBA and PARCC] are doing? (And like the ACT teamed up with Pearson to build?)

Schmeiser said only that the two consortia are doing "critically important work" that the College Board would "continue to support."
SBA and PARCC are doing "critically important" work like giving the appearance that the assessments are "state-led" and not driven by the ACT/SAT  partnership with Achieve and the NGA and the CCSSO    The NY Times called the Schmeiser move to the College Board a "defection" but might it foreshadow a merger?   She certainly doesn't act like someone whose company is being threatened by the ACT or the new state testing consortia. 

3.  ACT and SAT both bring distinct assets together to form a coherent P-20 student testing and tracking system.   ACT Aspire provides the "earlier" testing and data tracking component while the SAT provides the popular Advanced Placement Exams which Coleman sees as a "model" for testing.   Both companies have a college-readiness exam.  However, it has been noted that the SAT is losing market share to ACT and some believe the new SAT redesign wil look more like the ACT.  

Quoting from the NY Times, 
"With the new redesign, the SAT seems likely to inch even closer in content to the ACT, which focuses more on grammar, usage and mechanics than on vocabulary.
 It is also significant that the ACT is going digital with the help of Pearson but it does not appear that the SAT is making the transition away from pencil and paper. 

Will the SAT and ACT eventually merge and become the alternative "independent" testing powerhouse for the Common Core?  Has that been the plan all along?

Jindal's Naive on Common Core

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal gave a speech at a Redstate gathering on Friday where he addressed the Common Core.   He said,
"We will resist any attempt ... to impose a national curriculum,"
But as the news story points out that "the Jindal administration has been supportive of the standards, with state Education Superintendent John White saying they will "put Louisiana's children on an even playing field with every child in America."
Jindal is naive.  Common Core IS a national standard with national assessments and in the national curricula to go along with it is in the works.
In 2012, Mike Cohen President of Achieve stated that Achieve is "already working with three states--NY, RI, and MA to that have "won Race for the Top funds" and were allocating a portion of that to develop model curriculum and instructional materials aligned to the Common Core."
"Model curriculum" that will like become a "common curricula" for states to "decide" to adopt.
From the State of Michigan FAQ on Common Core 
11. Q: Do the CCSS represent national standards? Will they lead to a national curriculum and common national assessment?
A:  The Common Core State Standards Initiative is being led by states, not by the U.S. Department of Education. The CCSS will allow for development of common assessments  that may be adopted by states. Such common assessments may provide opportunities for evaluation of progress toward college and career readiness.   Decisions about development and adoption of common curricula and assessments will continue to be left to state boards of education. Some states may decide to participate in the development and adoption of a common curriculum (definitions that go beyond standards and include units of instruction or required activities, problems, or readings). The CCSSI has developed standards which will be adopted by states and used as the framework for developing state-level curricula and assessments. Participation in the  CCSSI does not require that states adopt a common curriculum or that they participate in one common assessment.
I'm sure Arne Duncan and Achieve will be right their helping the states "find" a reason to participate and adopt them just like they did with the Common Core State Standards and the related assessments.
Governor Jindal, the time to resist national curriculum is NOW.   I call upon you to remove your name and support from the Conservatives for Higher Standards website and join the fight to Stop Common Core.  Only in defeating the Common Core can we insure that national curriculum will never become a reality in the USA.
Karen Braun is a homeschool mom from Michigan.  She also writes for StopCommonCoreinMichigan.

Friday, August 02, 2013

HSLDA and Common Core

This week, I was forwarded an email sent out by HSLDA President Michael Farris to members regarding a phone conversation he had with David Coleman.  Coleman is President of the College Board and a leader in the Common Core State Standards Initiative.  (Read more about Coleman here.)

Farris's recaps his conversation here.

I have no interest in questioning the motives of Mr. Farris.   He is free to talk to whomever he wishes for whatever reasons he chooses.  But the implications of such conversations impact homeschoolers and that aspect I would like to address.

Both Coleman and Farris appeared to find common ground in their mutual dislike for data collection.
When he asked me why I thought that the Common Core was worse than other standards, I indicated that one of my chief concerns was the  creation of the database that would track students throughout their educational career. 
His answer surprised me. He didn't like the database all that well. It was not originally part of the Common Core, but other people have  seized the opportunity to make a centralized data collection effort  through the implementation of the Common Core.
Coleman's dislike for databases is confusing given that he previously stated his support of data collection.   In fact, he sees student data as the key to Common Core and rescuing students "within our care."
The College Board--our philosophy is it's not just that we can see this data, but these stduents are within our care...I want to put it to you very simply: we see it on three levels—in Advanced Placement—if there are ten students who score ready for AP based on their PSAT score so they get a good enough score on their PSAT, that it predicts a sixty percent chance of them passing AP math.
Even more curious than their mutual dislike for student data collection,  Farris does not mention any discussion regarding their common interest in Advanced Placement (AP) and how AP tests might be affected by Common Core.  Coleman boasts that AP students are "within our care."  The same could be said for many homeschool students enrolled in Patrick Henry Online College Preparatory Academy associated with Patrick Henry College founded by Mr. Farris.  The online high school must submit its coursework for approval by the College Board to use the AP distinction.
When you see “AP” in a course’s name, you know that the course conforms to a college-level curriculum standard. All PHC Prep Academy courses pass the AP course audit before they are taught to students.
HSLDA offers a discount to members who enroll in prep school.  Clearly, HSLDA and Farris prize the AP distinction and believe it is a selling feature for the academy.   Did Coleman and Farris talk about AP and how it would be impacted Patrick Henry and homeschoolers who take the AP exams?

HSLDA recently unveiled a new website, that outlines many of the concerns related to the Common Core.   College Board testing was identified as an area of concern but there is no mention of AP Tests.
The final area of concern for homeschoolers is that national and other popular standardized tests across the country are being rewritten to be aligned to the Common Core. David Coleman, the president of the College Board, was one of the primary authors of the Common Core English Language Arts standards. He has announced that the SAT will be redesigned to fully implement the Common Core.6 The latest version of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills is based on the Common Core.7 The GED has been redesigned for the first time since 2002 to incorporate “practices and skills from the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice.”8 Writers of the GED explain that they decided to revise the test now because “The shift to the Common Core standards is happening nationwide at the current time.”9
College Board is currently revising its AP tests to align with the Common Core.  Patrick Henry Prep Academy must submit its syllabi to the Coleman-led College Board in order to use the AP distinction.  AP is popular with many homeschool parents seeking to build a college-prep high school curricula for their children.

Homeschool parents deserve accurate information regarding the Common Core and that includes information regarding all tests, including the AP.   Many rely on HSLDA to inform them.

 Is it wise for a Christian to continue to seek their approval and validate the College Board/Coleman Standard of "excellence"?   Is it wise for parents to submit to AP tests knowing data collection is a part of Coleman's plan for the test?

As a Christian homeschooler, I reject the notion that we submit our coursework to any board for approval, especially one under the direction of David Coleman and his affection for the UN and global education.    I don't mind losing the AP distinction if it means we remain free of secular influence in our education. AP and the College Board do not validate my children or their education nor do they need my children's data.

I sent an email to HSLDA citing my concern and was told it will be forwarded on to others.  I also had concerns regarding their statements about the ACT  which will have to wait for another post.  I am not trying to demonize Mr. Farris or HSLDA, far from it. We're on the same side.  We both want to defeat Common Core and encourage educational freedom .

I hope some day to be able to have a similar conversation with Mr. Farris or a member of his staff and discuss how we can work together to accomplish that goal.  Stay tuned.

As an aside, I've been busy this summer with family and Michigan issues related to the Common Core.   Currently, I am writing much of the content for the Stop Common Core site in MIchigan site and working to halt Common Core in Michigan.   You can read more about that at