While the Times, the Post, the Chronicle, and Inside Higher Ed all gave a brief nod toward Coleman’s role in developing those Common Core State Standards for K-12 education, adopted by this large majority of states, neither Coleman nor the national media have really honed in on how the standards are driving the College Board—as well as the ACT—to change their product. To this point, in the new education landscape that has taken shape since these standards’ widespread adoption, how useful really are college admissions tests that do not actually assess the standards that we have determined prepare students for college and careers?
There’s little doubt that ACT recognized this point and has updated their products in response. ACT recently announced the launch of new assessments for grades 3-8 that are explicitly designed to assess the Common Core standards, ACT Aspire, which will culminate in the ACT for high school assessment. Last year, Alabama officially announced that it will use these tests to assess mastery of their state standards, the Common Core.
When Coleman became president of the College Board back in 2012, after his work developing the Common Core, he stated his goal for moving the SAT to better reflect those standards. On Wednesday, Education Week described in detail how the new changes to the SAT align with the Common Core—and presented an excellent side-by-side comparison of the SAT and Common Core that illustrates how Coleman’s goal will become a reality. (Education Week, largely focused on K-12 education news, has expertly covered the role of the Common Core in driving changes to the SAT.)
This new SAT will not be released until 2016—but next year students will begin to take assessments developed by two state consortia that explicitly measure mastery of the Common Core standards. The high school assessments will provide detailed information about student achievement in reading and mathematics, and will provide a source of student achievement data that is comparable across states. It may prove that these state-developed Common Core assessments are also a strong predictor of college success.
As the New York Times reiterated, “Critics have long pointed out—and Mr. Coleman admits—that high school grades are a better predictor of college success than standardized test scores.” While the SAT and ACT are currently the only players in the market of college admissions exams, they still have not succeeded in creating products that have stronger predictive power than high school grade point average. Though these two assessment giants are now trying to connect with the Common Core, it remains to be seen whether their new tests will be more predictive of student success in college. While the SAT and ACT are trying to stay ahead of the curve, perhaps the two new college- and career-ready assessments will have better grades.
This post also appears on New America's Ed Central, an Atlantic partner site.