Wendy Lecker is a civil rights attorney who writes frequently for the Stamford (CT.) Advocate.
In this article, she explains why it is a terrible idea for Connecticut (and other states) to replace their state tests in eleventh grade with the SAT. The SAT is a college admission exam, and it should not be used for accountability purposes. Those state officials who say that the “new” SAT is a proper accountability measure for all students–not just the college-bound–are lying, she writes. It covers material that students have not been taught. It is norm-referenced, not criterion-referenced. That means that it ranks students from top to bottom, instead of measuring whether they have met the goals for high school graduation. And it is unfair to students with disabilities and English language learners. According to Education Week, the SAT or the ACT will be used for accountability purposes in several states, with more possibly on the way. “Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire won approval to use the SAT for federal accountability, and Arkansas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming got the nod to use the ACT that way.”
Connecticut’s political and educational leaders have sold us a bill of goods with the new SAT. Last spring the legislature and the State Board of Education hastily decided to replace the 11th-grade SBAC with the newly designed SAT. The move was in response to outcry about the invalidity of the SBAC and about the addition of another standardized test for juniors.
As I wrote previously (http://bit.ly/1Kv8TXk), our leaders did not wait for the SAT to be validated, nor did they validate any accommodations that English Language Learners (ELL) or students with disabilities would need.
Instead, they misrepresented the facts to parents and students.
In December, the State Department of Education (SDE) sent districts a sample letter intended for parents. In it, SDE claimed that “(b)y adopting the SAT, we are eliminating duplicate testing.”
That assertion is false for many Connecticut students and SDE knew that when it wrote this letter. In a separate document sent at the same time but addressed to district leaders, not parents, SDE acknowledged that the vast majority of ELL students taking the SAT with accommodations will be unable to report their scores to colleges, because the College Board does not accept ELL accommodations. Similarly, many students with disabilities using accommodations will not be able to report scores either, as the College Board has more stringent criteria for disability accommodations. For those students, the SAT will only count for state accountability purposes.
In other words, for thousands of students, the state-mandated SAT will not count for college applications and they will have to take another test — either the SAT or ACT without accommodations.
Our state leaders also misled us by claiming that the new SAT is appropriate as an accountability exam aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Connecticut law requires that, for the current graduating class until the class of 2020, students must complete three credits of mathematics. Algebra II is not required nor is trigonometry or precalculus. Beginning with the class of 2021, the law specifies that students must take Algebra I and geometry, and either Algebra II or probability and statistics. Algebra II is not a requirement and trigonometry and precalculus are not even mentioned.
Yet the new SAT has a significant amount of Algebra II, and has trigonometry and precalculus. Almost half the math SAT is composed of “advanced math” and “additional topics” both of which have these advanced subjects. By contrast, there is very little geometry.
The new SAT is not aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Moreover, choosing this test sets students who have not taken Algebra II before 11th grade up for failure, along with their districts.