Why did Caltech drop its SAT II requirement? Well, it’s complicated…

Why did Caltech drop its SAT II requirement? Well, it’s complicated…

I was browsing through the admissions section of Inside Higher Ed recently when I came across a brief article announcing that Caltech had decided to move from requiring two SAT IIs (one math and one science) to making the exams optional. Now, over the last few years virtually every selective college—with the exception of a few engineering schools—has downgraded SAT from “required” to “recommended.” The fact that one more school is jumping on the bandwagon might not seem particularly noteworthy, just one incidence of the backlash against standardized testing.

Because the story involves Caltech in particular, however, it’s somewhat more interesting than it might at first appear. Not only because Caltech has traditionally been seen as a bastion of uncompromising rigor, but also because it’s difficult to see the move as separable from the school’s downward trajectory in the US News and World Report Ranking over the past 20 years, especially over the last decade. (more…)

Updated AP® English Language and Composition book coming soon

Updated AP® English Language and Composition book coming soon

The updated version of The Critical Reader: AP® English Language and Composition Edition, aligned with the revised 2020 version of the exam, will be available in late February. The exact release date has not yet been set, but I am aiming to have the guide ready by 2/20-25.

In the meantime, if you have the current edition, I recommend practicing for the new multiple-choice writing section using the rhetoric question from SAT writing/ACT English tests, or the Fixing Paragraphs section of the pre-2016 SAT.

Reading is a four-dimensional problem

Reading is a four-dimensional problem

When I first got interested in the problems involved in teaching reading, I quickly discovered that researchers considered reading a “three-dimensional problem” because it does not develop linearly and involves such a complex interplay of skills. That struck me as an accurate metaphor, and until recently, I never thought to question it. Recently, however, I’ve begun to think that turning children into good readers isn’t as complicated as it’s been made out to be—it’s worse. (more…)

A question for readers regarding the revised AP English Lang/Comp exam

A question for readers regarding the revised AP English Lang/Comp exam

Just wondering if anyone out there might know the answer to this.

From what I can glean from documentsl released by the College Board as well as various online discussions, the 2020 AP Lang/Comp test will be removing two kinds of multiple-choice questions: vocabulary in context, and something referred to as “identification.”

I cannot, however, seem to find out precisely what “identification” refers to.

My best guess is that it involves identification of rhetorical devices, but I can’t exactly remove a chapter from my AP Lang/Comp book unless I’m totally sure that the material is no longer tested!

Any AP English teachers out there (or people who know AP English teachers) who might be able to shed some light on this? I’d like to get the updated book out sooner rather than later.

 

Explanations to old-edition SAT/ACT grammar books are now available

Explanations to old-edition SAT/ACT grammar books are now available

Complete explanations for the end-of-chapter exercises in The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar, Fifth Edition and The Complete Guide to ACT English, Third Edition, are now available online via the Books page for $4.95 each.

Click here to purchase explanations for the SAT book.

Click here to purchase explanations for the ACT book.

Please note that to access the explanations, you must return to the main item page and follow the link provided.

If you purchased one of the new editions (SAT grammar, 5th ed., ACT English, 4th ed.), this does NOT apply to you; explanations are included in the books themselves.

Some thoughts on the 2019 NAEP reading-score decline

Some thoughts on the 2019 NAEP reading-score decline

2019 NAEP scores have been released, and the results in reading… aren’t good. As the New York Times reports:

Two out of three children did not meet the standards for reading proficiency set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the Education Department.

The dismal results reflected the performance of about 600,000 students in reading and math, whose scores made up what is called the “nation’s report card.” The average eighth-grade reading score declined in more than half of the states compared with 2017, the last time the test was given. The average score in fourth-grade reading declined in 17 states. Math scores remained relatively flat in most states.

Only 35 percent of fourth graders were proficient in reading in 2019, down from 37 percent in 2017; 34 percent of eighth graders were proficient in reading, down from 36 percent. Overall student progress in reading has stalled in the last decade, with the highest performers stagnating and the lowest-achieving students falling further behind.

Despite attempts to pin the blame on poverty and other social ills, the fact that math scores have not declined to anywhere near as much as reading scores suggests that the problem lies in the schools—in considerable part, at least. Intuitively, at least, it does not make sense to suggests that socio-economic factors could suddenly have such an outsized impact on one area of the curriculum while having almost no effect on another. In fact, math scores actually improved in some states. (more…)