SAT Disambiguation – Real World Math Problems

Real world CB definitionSince the announced changes to the SAT in March 2014, College Board officials have been on the world tour of high schools and education conferences trying to wow educators with their shiny new toy, the 15th iteration of the SAT. They’ve published exhaustive treatises on the research and specifications behind the changes, hosted dozens of gatherings and yet have provided no real information for the students who will actually take the test. These kids have been left to decode marketing-speak extolling the virtues of a test “more aligned with school work” and “based on a foundation of research.” Newspapers have picked up on the College Board’s talking points and parroted them without providing clarification, further confusing families and adding to the anxiety surrounding an already fraught time. So this leaves little ole me with the herculean task of laying plain that which has been obfuscated. I’ve been trying to work through each of the “8 Key Changes” and translate them into laymen’s terms so that they are more easily digested. Previously, I analyzed “Founding Documents and the Great Global Conversation“. As with that analysis, here I’ll also seek to answer these three key questions:

  1. What does this really mean?
  2. What level of impact will this change have for test takers?
  3. Is this really a change or is it simply a redistribution of the same ole same?

So, let’s do this thing!

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Skills, Skills, Skills – Do you have those testing skills?

Skills skills skillsWhile hate-reading some articles posted online over the weekend, I ended up looking on College Board’s website for a reference link to share with one of my twitter buddies and lo and behold I found this awesome new College Board tagline. Apparently College Board has decided that to help convince everyone that the redesigned SAT tests the skills that students have developed in high school they are going to use “Skill” as often as they can and in as many contexts as they can come up with. Here are a few more samples:

Skills skills skills 3

Skills skills skills 2

 

This awesomely bad use of the word immediately reminded me of Destiny’s Child’s hit Bills Bills Bills. So inspired by lack of sleep and a sick sense of humor I decided to pen College Board’s new theme song. I highly recommend that they play it every time David Coleman comes on stage.

Before I share with you the awesomeness of my first musical masterpiece, let me share with you a contest.

 

Music Skills to pay the SAT Prep Bills

The challenge is to create the best Skills, Skills, Skills song.  The best submission of a rendition of a college or SAT themed Skills Skills Skills will receive a free SAT prep class for a school or non-profit organization of their choice* (limitations apply).  I’ll actually choose two winning submissions.

Deadline to submit is November 15, winner will be announced here and on twitter (akilbello) on November 20.

Destiny’s Child – Bills Bills Bills

And now, without further ado:

 

Skills Skills, Skills

by Ken-ye Test (aka Akil Bello)

At first this started about school
Testing for college and for scholarships
But now, you’re getting comfortable
Ain’t scorin’ like you used to score
You’re slowly making me learn ya things your high school should be handling
And now I’ve given you the Core (cooooorrree)
Teaching you thinking and to read a doc or graph
And you have the audacity to even come and say you’re ready
Ask to go to university or even get a job from me

You average, good for nothing type of tester
Oh woe is me, these scores just keep on getting lesser
They’re fallin’, the new test better help me out
Instead of ACT who don’t get what rigor is all about

Can you show me those algebra skills
Can you do my linear drills
Can you show me those Common Core skills
If you did then maybe we could chill
I don’t think you do
So, you and college are through

(repeat chorus)

Now you’ve been freakin’ out ’bout words (wooords)
Blamin’ my lexicon, sayin’ learning word’s insane
Haven’t seen a college text
But you’re sure the words don’t count
Running to the ACT
Pretending they’re not doin’ it too

And then you learn no grammar (grammar)
Using singular when it should be plural instead
When the essay comes, all of a sudden you have no opinion
Don’t know where these thoughts came from
But MLK shows up is the only leader you’ve ever heard from

You average, good for nothing type of tester
Oh woe is me, these scores just keep on getting lesser
They’re fallin’, the new test better help me out
Instead of ACT who don’t get what rigor is all about

Can you show me those algebra skills

Can you do my linear drills
Can you show me those Common Core skills
If you did then maybe we could chill
I don’t think you do
So, you and college are through

Can you show me those algebra skills

Can you do my linear drills
Can you show me those Common Core skills
If you did then maybe we could chill
I don’t think you do
The ACT’s hard too.

You average, good for nothing type of tester
Oh woe is me, these scores just keep on getting lesser
You average, good for nothing type of tester
Oh woe is me, these scores just keep on getting lesser
You average, good for nothing type of tester
Oh woe is me, these scores just keep on getting lesser
You average, good for nothing type of tester
Oh woe is me, these scores just keep on getting lesser
They’re fallin’, the new test better help me out
Instead of ACT who don’t get what rigor is all about

Can you show me those algebra skills
Can you do my linear drills
Can you show me those Common Core skills
If you did then maybe we could chill
I don’t think you do
So, you and college are through

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The Perils of Calculator Permission

As the College Board gears up to launch the revised SAT in March of 2016, one of the changes coming is a seemingly minor revision of the rules for the Math sections. This revision will change the 20 year old policy that has allowed the indiscriminate the use of calculators on math sections and may have a huge impact on test-takers. The current SAT has 3 scored math sections and in each section test-takers are allowed to use a calculator, or not, as they see fit. The current test makes no distinction (either implicit or explicit) among the math sections about the necessity or appropriateness of calculator usage. Well Interestingly, when the revised SAT launches it will have 2 scored math sections and in one of the two sections calculator use will be forbidden. While the College Board seems to be soft-selling this as if it will be no major change, I’m not certain at all that the impact of this change in procedure won’t have a deleterious impact. Having worked with teens in test preparation for more than 20 years, this distinction has me worried about unintended consequences. What immediately pops to mind are the following questions:

  • Will the inclusion of a “calculator permitted” section translate to this calculator dependent generation as “calculator necessary”?
  • Will the mention of calculator permitted cause additional stress for students who do not have a calculator or cannot afford a “good” calculator?
  • Is the college board assuming that students will all be made aware of the fine distinction between permitted and necessary prior to taking the exam?
  • Will this seemingly small change to the SAT hurt scores of the most vulnerable populations?

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