This is a bizarre and troubling turn of events. Several states have decided to use the SAT or ACT to meet federal accountability requirements for students. But neither examination has been validated for this purpose.


Catherine Gewertz writes in Education Week:


High school testing is on the brink of a profound shift, as states increasingly choose college-entrance exams to measure achievement. The new federal education law invites that change, but it comes with some big caution signs and unanswered questions.
The questions are hanging over a provision of the Every Student Succeeds Act that lets states measure high school achievement with college-entrance exams instead of standards-based assessments.
If many states make that change, it would represent an important national shift in the meaning of high school testing, assessment experts say.
That’s because most states’ current tests are based on their academic standards and are built to measure mastery of those standards. Moving to a college-entrance exam such as the SAT or ACT, which are designed to predict the likelihood of students’ success in college, would mean that states had chosen instead to measure college readiness.
“It’s a really big shift,” said Wayne Camara, who helped design the SAT and oversaw research at the College Board for two decades before taking a similar post at ACT in 2014. “States need to think about what they want their accountability system to measure and choose the test best suited for that. Ultimately, it’s a judgment. It depends on what you value most.”


She reports that seven states have gained permission from the U.S. Department of Education to use one of the two exams for federal accountability, and a large number of others are considering the same move.


How well a national exam can reflect state standards is a central—and unanswered—question in the use of college-entrance exams for accountability purposes.
FairTest, a group that opposes standardized testing, warned that that provision in the new law “must be treated with caution; those tests are no better educationally than existing state tests, and they have not been validated to assess high school academic performance.” The college-entrance exams have long been criticized, too, as biased in favor of wealthier students from college-educated families.
Sound assessment practice requires that a test be validated for its specific intended use. But there are no independent research studies analyzing how well the newest versions of the SAT or ACT reflect the depth and breadth of the Common Core State Standards, which are used by more than 40 states. States that use other standards would have to obtain their own “alignment” studies.
Without that kind of evidence, testing experts said, states are on shaky ground if they use a college-entrance exam to measure mastery of their content standards.
“How can a state tell teachers to teach the standards, and then use a test that hasn’t been proven to align [to them]?” said Scott F. Marion, the executive director of the Center for Assessment, which helps states design testing systems. “It’s a major problem. It’s like a bait-and-switch.”


This is a big win for the Common Core, since both the SAT and ACT determined to align with the new and unproven standards. It is also a big win for the corporations that own the SAT and the ACT, which will clean up as they build their market share.


It is a huge loss for students who are not the best and brightest, who have always faltered on these tests of college-readiness. When they fail, as they will, what will our society do with them? Will they still be eligible for a high school diploma? Will they drop out and join the ranks of the unemployed and hopeless?


What we know about the SAT, and every other standardized test, is that they effectively replicate family income. The wealthiest students get the highest scores, and the poorest get the lowest. In addition, the families with means hire SAT or ACT tutors, adding to their initial advantage.


Once again, tests are in the saddle, determining what will be taught. In a sane world, the tests are based on the curriculum; in this not-so-brave new world, the tests will drive the curriculum. And predictably, the kids with the least advantage will be punished by stupid policy.