What new SAT reforms mean for the future of education

The SAT is doing away with the essay test, finally acknowledging what free market economy has proven over the last seven years: That the more you pay for SAT tutoring, the higher your score is. Yes, there are exceptions: The kid who was going to get a perfect score no matter what. But that kid didn’t even need the SAT, did she?

So rich kids do better on the SAT because of the obscure vocabulary words that you can only find in SAT prep courses. (Which will now be scrubbed from the exam.) And rich kids do better on the opening essay portion, which is full of fabricated stories posing as personal history and factually incorrect data because rich kids know you don’t get penalized for saying things like the Civil War happened in 1760 instead of 1860 . (The opening essay portion will be killed off as well.)

Finally people acknowledge how college preparation is fairly easily purchased, and has little to do with regular school. After all, the only way the SAT can give equal chances to kids in low performing and high performing schools is to have little to do with what kids learn in school.

It was a noble attempt at evening the playing field, but, like all attempts at evening the playing field in this country, the rich people bought themselves a new field. And, I admit that every day we spend in the goat barn while school kids are learning math, I tell myself: don’t worry, we can pay someone to teach the kids to ace the SAT.

But now that won’t be the case. Because now there will be a new SAT that focuses much more on the common core.

And thus the SAT will make itself irrelevant to the rich kids at private schools because the majority of those schools opted out of the test-centric, standards-obsessed core. And we all know what happens to a test that is irrelevant to the rich kids: You can start ignoring it right now, no matter how rich you are, because it’s only a matter of time before the SAT is finished. In fact, NPR points out that the slide to total obsolescence started earlier this year when 800 of 3000 colleges accepting the SAT said it would no longer be required.

This is good news for homeschoolers, of course. Because if you allow your kid to learn what they are interested in, he or she is likely to do very well in an admissions process that looks for people with a passion. And once the last vestige of the most vaunted standardized test disappear, the only thing we’ll have left for measuring student aptitude is their ability to find a passion and their ability to act on it. And suddenly our goat barn looks more like college prep than ever before.

20 replies
  1. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    And so (at least it seems to me) the SAT’s last bastion of relevancy is the poor and underprivileged, who apparently still have to follow well-worn paths.

  2. Becca Leech
    Becca Leech says:

    I’m not so sure about your confidence that this will be good for homeschoolers. One advantage our homeschool kids tend to have is that we outscore everybody else on this test. I homeschooled my son for all but one year of school, and now he is 18 and just starting to sort through acceptance letters and financial aid offers from schools, so we have been through the application process recently. I felt like most of the schools he applied to really put an emphasis on his SAT score, since they took our high school transcript with a grain of salt (as well they should have since the whole concept didn’t really apply to us.) The merit based aid he is being offered seems almost exclusively linked to his high SAT scores. My daughter is a junior this year, and these SAT changes have me a little worried. I think our goat barn helped with the SAT score more than it helped shape an impressive school transcript, from the college admissions officer’s point of view, anyway.

  3. Carole
    Carole says:

    We are a host family for a high school aged Chinese student. His parents are paying big bucks for an American high school education. In any case, our student tells me that for $10,000 you can get a great SAT score. There are people in China who know how to ace the test and will take the test on your behalf – with fake ID, even a fake passport if necessary.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      So interesting! Sometimes I think that there is such excitement abroad about going to the US for higher education that maybe it’ll be only non-US citizens in college.


      • redrock
        redrock says:

        welcome to the world of grad school admission! Purchase of intense and targeted GRE test prep is common – so much so that the applications from chinese students, who are clearly the best organized group, are nearly identical. The standardized test makes it close to impossible to truly assess a students abilities.

  4. Karo
    Karo says:

    Over 12 years ago, while living in Europe and applying to US colleges, I refused to study for the SAT and only applied to a school that didn’t require it. So, I didn’t end up going to a top tier school here but a city school. Yet I made a very good future for myself because of my grit and determination and NOT because of a fancy degree from a “prestigious” school. I refuse to do things that are borderline ridiculous and where others try to make me play a game for their own financial benefit. The education in the US is a lie-driven racket, sending young adults into financial abyss with no safety net upon graduation. Even though they may tell you otherwise, the US education system along with the various cottage industries surrounding it, is strictly for-profit. Start thinking for yourselves, people.

  5. Jayson
    Jayson says:

    No need to have an SAT test when soon enough everyone but the rich will be priced out of college education. That or a life indentured to debt. Ideally, by the time my children are old enough the entire system will be obsolete.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I’m hoping for that, too. But increasingly I’m seeing that it’s really hard to risk telling your kids it’s obsolete when it’s not.


  6. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    I started homeschooling my middle school aged son a few months ago. He still goes to school part time because he’s afraid of missing his friends, but being there all day was destroying him. My fear is that he won’t find a passion.

  7. Daniele
    Daniele says:

    I am ecstatic over these changes! I’ve long disapproved of the overall importance placed on standardized testing. At least changes signal a realization of just how ridiculous this test was set up to begin with. Bravo!

  8. Linda Lou
    Linda Lou says:

    There are plenty of private schools that follow Common Core…and they don’t announce it, either. Some private schools are Common Core on steroids.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The article I linked to said it was the religiously affiliated private schools that adhere to common core. But really I think it’s just the lower-cost private schools. Because generally speaking parents who have a lot of money don’t feel the need to follow other peoples’ rules for education.


  9. karelys
    karelys says:

    Someone said something about just applying to community college or state college and then transferring. That way you get rid of the need for SAT scores.

    I know that by the time my son is old enough for all this the landscape will look much different. But I know that I was lucky enough to do a few years of community college while in high school so I didn’t have to pay for it.
    Honestly, the quality of education wasn’t that great or different. But the treatment was much much different and I loved it. It was all up to the student. I loved that.

    So yeah, do that. In most states, if your kid is high school age you can get college classes without having to pay for it. A lot of people I met did this because they wanted to be part of the music program or athletics. When they transferred to more expensive schools they transferred with scholarships.

    I don’t know if this is applicable for Ivy Leagues, because I know P is worried about nothing but Ivies. But I am sure there is a way to get there without having to knock on the front door like everyone else.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think community-college-and-then-transfer is a great way to go. Saves money and saves worrying.

      When I started taking writing classes I had taken none in college. I started the courses at a community college and I used those courses to get into a graduate program at Boston University.

      In general, if you do good work at a community college tons of doors open up to you. It’s a proving ground for people who have something to prove.


  10. Courtney Ostaff
    Courtney Ostaff says:

    Thought you’d appreciate this background on the guy who is making these changes:

    Sadly, a college undergraduate degree has become equivalent to a 1970 HS diploma–and you have to pay for it.

    My husband, with 25 years of experience, a high-level security clearance, superlative performance reviews, and experience working for himself, can no longer get calls about jobs due to lack of a BA. Doesn’t matter what it would be in–underwater basketweaving would do. Just that he had a degree would enable him to keep a job, and make more money. So, at 40, he’s a college sophomore. At least his current job (50% pay cut from his last job), will pay for it.

  11. MichaelG
    MichaelG says:

    The Washington Post has a sample test here:


    I got 9/10 right, and on the last one, one of the “improving sentences” questions, I really thought it was a matter of taste.

    My reaction to the sample is that the math is trivial, and the rest of it is going to kill any kid who doesn’t read a lot. So I don’t think this is neutral across different economic classes.

    If you are a kid who reads, and you want to take a prep class, it would improve your score. If you are the average kid who doesn’t read for pleasure, I don’t think any amount of prep is going to save you. Those kids are just too far behind.

  12. Mark
    Mark says:

    The SAT is becoming more like the ACT because the ACT has been taking market share. I wouldn’t celebrate the demise of the standardized tests’ place in college admissions just yet.

    We’re going to prep for taking the SAT early in the 10th grade before it changes. I think an excellent SAT score is helpful to a homeschool applicant. Any move toward more content-oriented measures will provide incentives for homeschoolers to teach that particular content, rather than content they’d choose otherwise.

    The idea that “rich people” are the cause of this change is a very odd take. You can prep for the SAT for $30. You can also make over a 700 on the verbal portion without knowing the most rarified of the vocabulary words, anyway.

    This strikes me as a dumbing down of the process, along the lines of the idea that only rich, white people know what a “regatta” is.

    • Zeitgeist
      Zeitgeist says:

      I agree. My daughter recently scored a perfect 2400 on the SAT. She used practice tests free from the Internet and the official College Board book available everywhere for $20 give or take. She had just turned 16. I have never paid for a tutor or for review courses. Self-directed learning applies here as well.

      I am at peace with standardized tests. It allows my children to provide some objective assessment of their knowledge. Grades are largely meaningless and inflated at just about every school. Selective colleges use GPA as a measure of motivation and competitiveness vis a vis peers and that is all. I believe the results of the SAT, SAT subject tests and AP exams separates the men from the boys. Lowering the difficulty of the SAT will only cause selective colleges to look more closely at those specific subject tests.

  13. Kim in Phx
    Kim in Phx says:

    The standardized tests are out for my three boys no matter what. There is a wonderful thing happening in the home education community where 15yos are applying to community college and being accepted easily. Now said student is earning college-level credit and grades. This student is graduating at 17 or 18 with an AA and wants to apply to a 4yr university. There are now no tests to be taken, basic classes paid for at very inexpensive prices, no debt carried over and scholarships up the wazzoo. We have a lot of friends whose children have forged this path for us and a friendly community college who has created a cohort for our home education group to do just this thing. Our first group of 15yos starts in June. I see this as a wave for the future. Worthless high school classes – gone. Paying $20+k/yr for math 101 and English 101 – gone. Having an AA degree and being able to work in your chosen field while earning a BA or BS – priceless. Not to mention me not having to teach Calculus. The educational system has long since become irrelevant and pretty soon everyone else is going to catch on, too.

    • Mark
      Mark says:

      The 4-year and 2-year schools around here require some kind of standardized test score for admission to the dual enrollment program. It’s either the SAT/ACT or subject placement tests. The SAT is probably easier for which to prep since there is more official practice material.

      It only requires a 1070 (math and verbal, excluding the essay) so it’s no big deal, but it needs to be done.

      Also, dual enrollment students here are still considered high school students so they wouldn’t be transfer students when applying to a 4-year school (and transfer students could be at several disadvantages, anyway) and will still be required by many colleges to have an SAT or ACT score.

Comments are closed.