Common Core and the New SAT

In a previous entry (March 1, 2014), I explained that the new SAT will debut in January 2016. So current sophomores will be the first to encounter this re-designed  college exam. The president of the College Board, David Coleman, was one of the architects of the the Common Core, so students can expect that the “Common Core Anchor Standards” will form the basis for a large portion of the exam.

Several months ago, the College Board published a document entitled Test Specifications for the Redesigned SAT.  It explains the reasons for the change:  ”Recent SAT results tell a troubling story about students’ readiness for and likelihood for success in their postsecondary endeavors. Notably, 57 percent of SAT takers in the 2013 cohort lacked the academic skills to succeed in college-entry, credit-bearing courses without remediation in at least one subject, and the success rates for such remediation leading to postsecondary completion are far too low. At the same time, the nature of life and work in the United States has transformed to the point where at least some degree of postsecondary education or training is increasingly required for access to middle-class jobs.” Those are, indeed, troubling statistics.

Purportedly, the new test will endeavor to rectify this state of affairs. The changes are too extensive to review in one article, so I will devote several entries to the topic. This entry will focus on one part of the reading portion.  I have viewed the sample questions that the College Board included in the aforementioned document. If the actual test mirrors these samples,  it will prove quite challenging to those students who have not mastered Common Core standards.  For example, two of the the Common Core Anchor Standards for Informational Reading in grades 9 & 10 put forth the following expectations.

“Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.”
These are laudable goals that interweave a student’s mastery of reasoning, reading, and writing.  The sample  non-fiction passage for the new SAT includes the following paragraph from a primary source, a 1974 Congressional speech. “Prosecutions of impeachments will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community,” said Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, number 65. “We divide into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.”*   Take a look at the question relating to this excerpt.

In lines 48-53 (“Prosecutions . . . sense”), what is the most likely reason Jordan draws a distinction between two types of “parties”?

  1. A)  To counter the suggestion that impeachment is or should be about partisan politics
  2. B)  To disagree with Hamilton’s claim that impeachment proceedings excite passions
  3. C)  To contend that Hamilton was too timid in his support for the concept of impeachment
  4. D)  To argue that impeachment cases are decided more on the basis of politics than on justice


Common Core objectives serve to provide standards that will allow our students to succeed. They set out guidelines, but do not provide a methodology. Are our students receiving the training that will allow them to analyze complex material in any subject?  Will students have enough time to catch up to these new rigorous standards. The results of the first cohort for this newly designed exam may provide some answers.


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