After listening to me natter on about who was writing the new SAT, a tutor friend of mine decided to take matters into her own hands and email the College Board.
Just as I had predicted, the response (posted below) consisted of a non-answer packed full of every favorite reformer platitude imaginable (College and career readiness! measuring skills and knowledge! evidence for validity! Ummm… It hasn’t been administered yet. Exactly how does one go about acquiring evidence for the validity of something before it’s occurred?).
This was my friend’s original inquiry:
I’m just wondering if the new redesigned SAT and PSAT were written/designed by ETS.
And this is the response she received from the College Board:
Inquiry for SAT
Response Via Email (Vivian Agent ID 192285) 10/22/2015 02:27 PM
Thank you for contacting the College Board.
We have received your email in reference to the redesigned SAT and PSAT exams. We will be more than happy to assist you and provide you with some information.
To establish a strong foundation of evidence for validity, the new test design is based on a growing body of national and international research on the skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness and success. Great care goes into developing and evaluating every question that appears on the SAT and PSAT exams. College Board test development committees, made up of experienced educators and subject-matter experts, advice on the test specifications and the types of questions that are asked. Before appearing in a test form that will count toward a student’s score, every potential SAT and PSAT question is:
• Reviewed by external subject-matter experts, such as math or English educators, to make sure it reflects the knowledge and skills that are part of a rigorous high school curriculum.
• Subjected to an independent fairness review process.
• Pretested on a diverse sample of students under live testing conditions for analysis by subgroups.
Meticulous care goes into developing and evaluating each test for fairness. Classroom teachers, higher education faculty who teach freshman courses, test developers, and other trained content experts write the test questions for the SAT and PSAT exams. Test developers, trained content experts, and members of subject-based development committees write the test questions for the SAT Subject Tests.
Test development committees, made up of racially/ ethnically diverse high school and college educators from across the country, review each test item and test form before it is administered. To ensure that the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and PSAT are valid measures of the skills and knowledge specified for the tests, as well as fair to all students, the SAT Program maintains rigorous standards for administering and scoring the tests.
Careful and thorough procedures are involved in creating the test. Educators monitor the test development practices and policies and scrupulously review each new question to ensure its utility and fairness. Each test question is pretested before use in an actual SAT, SAT Subject Test, and PSAT exams. Not until this rigorous process is completed are newly developed questions finally used in the administrations.
For further information or assistance, please feel free to call us at 1 (866) 756-7346 (Domestic), 001 (212) 713-7789 (International), Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) or visit us at www.collegeboard.org.
Agent ID #192285
The College Board Service Center
The only part that took me even slightly aback was the length; I guess it’s hard to say nothing concisely. At any rate, it’s a masterpiece of obfuscation — “obfuscation” being highly relevant word that means “deliberating making something unclear in order to avoid awkward or unpleasant facts.”
So while it’s reassuring to know that the writing committees are made up of “racially and ethnically diverse high school and college educators” (does that include current classroom teachers or just administrators?), it would also be nice to have a straight answer regarding whether ETS is still involved, and if so, in what capacity?
As Larry Krieger put it:
Why not just be succinct and say: “Yes, the ETS is responsible for the new SATs.” Or, “No a new team at Pierson [sic] is responsible for the new SATs.”
Reading between the lines, I would assume the answer is no but that the College Board has imposed some sort of prohibition against admitting as much directly — presumably because they don’t want to stir things up, and because that type of admission could lead to awkward questions about things like validity. Proclaiming that the new test is “relevant” has gotten the College Board pretty far, but then again the same thing happened with Common Core before people actually understood anything about it. The other tests linked to Common Core have already come under plenty of fire; the last thing the College Board needs is to be linked to that kind of controversy.
It could just be me, but something doesn’t seem right here.
The link you provided refers to the 2005 changes. Yes, I’m aware that essay scoring has been contracted out to Pearson since then, but ETS has still been writing the actual test. What may be happening now is the complete (?) elimination of ETS’s involvement in the test creation process. That’s a much more radical shift.