A Candid Discussion with David Coleman
A Candid Discussion with David ColemanAnne Sussman, Director, K-12 Community Communications
David Coleman hates fakery. That’s one of the first things he told the audience at his town hall discussion Wednesday afternoon at Forum 2015. He prefers to be honest, candid, forthright. And so, when he was asked about the subtle differences in administering the PSAT/NMSQT and the PSAT 8/9, he answered honestly: “I don’t have a command over the last-minute proctoring guidelines,” and he did not want to “dishonor” the importance of these technical questions by providing incomplete or incorrect information.
Instead, he gave out a College Board email address to which technical questions could be sent and ensured attendees that someone who did know the answers would get back to them.
This exchange set the tone for the 75-minute discussion, in which Coleman reiterated the need for assessments to provide real opportunities for students and elaborated on the difference between “test prep” and “test practice”: “‘Catching up’ doesn’t happen in the few moments before the test,” he said, referring to last-minute cramming sessions. “The only things that really make a difference are great courses and productive practice.”
One question from the audience about how the idea of “common standards” is misperceived by many spurred a particularly thoughtful response from Coleman: “I’m very discouraged about all of the fog around this. If you say ‘kids should have command of the founding documents and the great conversation they inspire’ — 98 percent of the population agrees.” The same, he said, held true when asking if people thought it was important for students to be able to read passages and answer questions based on evidence found in the reading. “Instead of saying ‘common standards,’ just say the specific skills,” and most people will agree. “That’s my best answer,” he said. “Get more specific.”