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College Board Hopes Remodeled SATs

June 28, 2002

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NEW YORK (AP) _ College Board officials say they hope the addition of essay-writing and grammar questions to the SAT college entrance test will lead students to pay more attention to those skills and produce a nation of better writers.

College Board chair and University of Maryland vice president Linda Clement said the new writing portion of the test ``sends a loud and clear message that strong writing is essential to success in college and beyond.″

Some said Thursday they believed the changes would result in more emphasis on writing.

``It lets students know before they enter college that in the real world, good communication is a must,″ Florrie Williams, a high school teacher in Alexandria, Va., in Dallas for a meeting of the National Education Association.

Trustees of the non-profit College Board approved several major changes to the SAT at their Manhattan headquarters Thursday. The changes will be fine-tuned by the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J., which creates and administers the test for the College Board.

The new version of the test, to be introduced in March 2005, will:

_ Add a writing section featuring a 25-minute essay and grammar questions.

_ Gradually toughen the math section with questions up to third-year, algebra II level, and drop questions on quantitative comparisons.

_ Recast the verbal section as a test of ``critical reading″ by adding text passages to measure reading skill. It will drop the analogies questions.

University of California President Richard Atkinson _ who complained in early 2001 that the existing SAT did not accurately gauge what students learned in school _ said the new test would ``focus student attention on mastery of subject matter, rather than mastery of test-taking skills.″

Alessa Thomas, who will take the SAT next fall in Gladstone, Mich., as a high school senior, said the changes were welcome even though they won’t take effect in time for her to take the test.

``They’re taking out questions that didn’t make any sense at all,″ she said. ``Those tests can be really impossible.″

Robert Kendler, a guidance counselor at Metuchen High School in New Jersey, was glad for the demise of analogy questions. He said they didn’t seem relevant to what students learn in class.

His school in an affluent New York bedroom community provides the luxury of a free SAT preparation course for juniors, and already emphasizes writing skills. But he wondered if students in low-income districts would have the same advantages.

The new SAT essay, Kendler said, ``would at least give the capable students the chance to demonstrate their writing ability. But for the culturally disadvantaged student, I’m not so sure.″


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