Let’s get right to the point. David Coleman has helped put the final nail in the coffin of American elementary and secondary public education with his contribution to the appalling Common Core. Not content with destroying one cornerstone of the America’s education landscape, Coleman has now put the final nail in the coffin of the SAT.
The SAT has never been a perfect assessment. But all one has to do is look at how it has changed its name from the Scholastic Aptitude Test in 1926 to the Scholastic Assessment Test in 1990 (does Coleman, who so hates words adults once used, know the meaning of duplicative?) to simply the SAT I: Reasoning Test in 1993 to just SAT Reasoning Test in 2004 to understand how much this assessment has lost its way.
How ironic that as the SAT changed its name it also lost interest in assessing the meaning of words. A society that tries to make big words verboten (aw chucks, I did it again) is a society that doesn’t have long for this world. Yes, the old analogies section of the SAT was a pain in the rear, but at least it encouraged students to strive for something, anything other than rote memorization of all that is common in our midst. Those who had the will to achieve learned the words that the minds behind the SAT thought were key to being a learned member of society. These were the teenagers who were real college material. Today, standards themselves are considered a dirty word.
Coleman said, "The redesigned SAT will instead focus on words students will use over and over again, that open up worlds to them." Nonsense! Or, I guess, if Coleman had his way, the word I should have used is an expletive that starts with b and ends with t since that is certainly a word students in high school use over and over again. Again, standards are important.
After listening to Coleman’s announcement about the changes the SAT will undergo in 2016 one would assume that the biggest problems facing higher education today are lack of diversity and the SAT with its crazy old-fashioned standards that are simply not applicable to the world as it is today.
No, the biggest problems facing higher education in America today are:
1. Colleges’ bloated bureaucracies full of “heads of freshmen orientation programming” and “heads of diversity” and the like that serve to further inflate tuition, which is only capable of rising as much as it does each year because of laws passed by federal lawmakers and the encouragement of a federal government intent on putting as many Americans into unserviceable debt as is possible in a society that doesn’t know the meaning of words.
2. Most colleges aren’t worth the money they are asking from students, parents, and the federal government. Most colleges shouldn’t even exist. Most students going to college today shouldn’t be going to college. Fifty years ago most of today’s college going-population would be laughed at for accomplishing so little and still having the audacity to believe that they were college material. Students and parents alike have been sold snake oil by Coleman and his ilk for far too long. College, if it is worth anything, is for those who actually want to learn and grow with the liberal arts and have a history of learning and growing in the recent past (i.e. high school). If you need remedial math or writing in college, the above sentence does not apply to you. It doesn’t make you a bad person; it just means you should think of doing something else with your time and money.
The College Board, the purveyor of the SAT, has richly deserved to lose market share to the ACT over the past several years because the ACT is at least a more straightforward test and ACT Inc. is a better-led organization. ACT Inc. exists in the real world and has for a long time. The College Board, especially as led by Coleman, exists is a fairytale world that never existed and never will.
Were all the changes made to the SAT bad? No. Only most of them. The new SAT is a poor-quality knock-off of the ACT. If analogies were still allowed by the SAT we could perfectly sum up the current state of affairs with, “New Coke : Pepsi :: New SAT : ACT” Which makes all the more startling Coleman’s claim, which he has no real right to make, that, "It is time to admit that the SAT and ACT have become disconnected from the work of our high schools." You don’t speak for the ACT Mr. Coleman, and, if there is any truth to that statement as it relates to the SAT maybe it’s because of the dreadful state of so many of our public and private high schools.
David Coleman is a charlatan of the highest order. To all the high school students out there: learn as many words as you can if you are going to have the best chance of making it in this world! This is true whether or not you intend to go to college.
Craig Meister is president of Tactical College Consulting, a Baltimore-based college admissions consultancy that specializes in giving students the tools they need to find and get into their best-fit college.