Last month the College Board announced a complete overhaul of the SAT test. In reading through the specific changes, it has become clear to me that what is being valued and emphasized correlates directly with the 21st century skills and progressive model of teaching and learning that are essential to today’s students: teaching independent thinking, problem-solving, research, investigation, and synthesis of information and data.
The SAT was originally adapted from the World War I army I.Q. test and was used as a screening device for a few selective colleges throughout the 1930s. It was believed that the test could not be prepared for and was an assessment of “innate intelligence.” Today the SAT is not only a test that students prepare for, but an assessment of knowledge that can be accessed anywhere at anytime. This correlates to a test that has become outdated and irrelevant. I applaud the College Board for the awareness that access to knowledge is no longer the currency toward success. The core competency that educational institutions need to be teaching is application, synthesis and justification of that knowledge. That just happens to be the core focus of the new SAT.
The new SAT’s math section will focus on mathematical reasoning used to solve problems in the real world, work with linear equations, and use complex equations and their applications in science and social science. The three-hour exam, scored on the 1,600-point system and with an optional essay scored separately, will concentrate on evidence-based reading and writing. The assessment will use materials such as science articles, historical documents and literature excerpts. Instead of memorizing vocabulary words, one will need to understand how a word is being used and for what effect.
This type of change reflects the paradigm shift that the education field has seen in the past 10 years as students are prepared for a world where 70 percent of jobs will be ones that do not currently exist. Gone are the days where rote memorization and regurgitation of facts will suffice in preparing students to live in our world. Citizenship extends us into the realms of global and digital communities, and our children need much more. I am thrilled that the College Board has taken this direction in shifting the test’s emphasis, and I continue to be confident that our graduates will have the skills to succeed and do well on the new SAT.
Sergio Alati, Ed.D, is the head of school at Stevens Cooperative School.