I have been a high school and sometimes middle school English teacher for almost 25 years. During those 25 years, the New York State English Regents and the SAT have changed multiple times. I have sat through numerous professional developments and meetings discussing the changes and how to align your instruction for the exam. Each time we worked on this I would ask: We teach reading and writing, what are we changing? I am just a lowly teacher, not someone who sits at the Board of Regents in Albany and crafts the exam. After the film School of Rock came out, I started to refer to the test makers as “The Man.”
One of the things I have realized many years ago is that at the crux of education, the real issue is making money. The Man makes a lot of money when they change the exam because then you need to change the test prep books that assist with the instruction. The Man has cronies who also make a lot of money by giving professional development at an exorbitant cost to the city.
In the early 2000s, the College Board announced that they were adding grammar to the exam and changing the score from 1600 points to 2400. So, we got all new grammar books and made sure each day we did a “Do Now” practicing grammar. About a year later, I went to a college fair and the admissions counselors told me, “Oh we’re only looking at math and reading. We aren’t looking at the extra 800 points.” Okay, great, thanks. So, I stopped having the students complete the grammar and editing do now activity.
The next year, the College Board went from 2400 back to 1600 and did not get rid of the grammar, they added it to the 800 points of the reading section. So they had two sections for the reading score: reading comprehension and writing and language. So, for math they divided it into two sections: math with no calculator and math with calculator. At first, I was so happy. These kids need to learn to do some math without a calculator (even though we have not made them do math without a calculator their entire high school career). However, when I saw the math I was like…..what math is this and how can one do it without a calculator? I assumed the questions would be about maybe earning money in the stock market, or about commissions on sales? (Common core math stated more real life scenarios.)
So here we are in January 2022 and the College Board has announced once again that they are changing the exam. Guess what? They are eliminating the math with no calculator section!
So, I guess I will be attending more meetings and working on learning this new exam.
Please do not be the person who emails me and says: This is why we need to get rid of standardized testing. It may not be perfect, but we need something that tests whether the students can read, write and complete math tasks. As parents, we cannot say that our children are not good test takers. They will have to take tests for almost every job I can think of so they need to start getting better at taking exams.
By Beth Hanning