11 Ways to Clear a Path to Opportunity
11 Ways to Clear a Path to OpportunityCrystal Barrick, Assistant Director, Communications
On December 2, College Board President and CEO David Coleman spoke alongside Sal Khan and two students —Avianna Johnson from East Bay High School in Florida and Camila Teagle-Alarcon from Milikan High School in California—who increased their scores with Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy. The group shared the stage with Governor Jeb Bush and New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera at the 2016 National Summit on Education Reform, hosted by the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
Coleman’s remarks began with a reminder that the College Board was founded more than 100 years ago on the idea that merit, not privilege, should determine access to higher education. He opened: “I think if the College Board is to be useful to this country, we must now rededicate ourselves to our original mission. We must dedicate ourselves once again to clearing a path for all students to own their future.”
He then outlined the 11 principles guiding the College Board’s work as we go beyond tests to provide more opportunities to students.
- Make the SAT more than fair.
The redesigned SAT is making it easier for students to show their best work. How? Gone is the guessing penalty, and gone are obscure “SAT words.” Coleman explained: “The words on the exam are no longer words we use most rarely, but words [students] will use most often in the first year of college."
He also noted that there’s now 43 percent more time per question on the SAT than the ACT. “One of the worst things assessment has done in this country is to confuse quick and smart,” Coleman said.
“It's time to make excellence easier,” he continued. “We want the SAT to be the easiest place for students to show their power, to do their best work. We’re inviting all students—they've all got a shot.”
- Never give someone only one chance to be great.
Coleman described how the redesigned Suite of Assessments—including the PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, and PSAT/NMSQT—creates a multi-year trajectory, allowing students to see how they’re doing throughout high school. A student’s fate never rests on one test.
He also clarified: “The PSAT does not predict what you will get on the SAT. No test can tell you your potential… All a test can do is invite you to what you could become, through practice.” He called the PSAT “an invitation to free practice.” Which leads to the next principle—
- Make practice free for all.
To prevent costly test preparation from acting as a barrier to student success on the SAT, the College Board partnered with Khan Academy; together we made high-quality SAT practice free to the world.
As of December, 2.5 million students are using Official SAT Practice with Khan Academy, at roughly equal rates—across all income levels, races, and ethnicities. And “there are five times as many students practicing on Khan Academy than all of commercial test preparation combined,” announced Coleman.
“Practice is an ‘equal opportunity employer,” he said. “Practice works. You can indeed get better at anything if you follow your love and practice.” The two students who joined Coleman and Khan on-stage—who both improved their SAT scores by more than 100 points after using Official SAT Practice—were inspiring testaments to this.
- Fulfill the broken promises of assessment.
Coleman explained the College Board’s commitment to tracking “opportunities delivered, not just test scores.”
Though assessments have at best been seen as a way to find “diamonds in the rough and catapult them into opportunity,” the reality is less heartening. Coleman gave the example of students who were in the top ten percent of SAT scorers but the bottom quarter of our nation's income; despite high test scores, more than half of them do not apply to a single selective college. So the College Board removed a barrier: we worked with our member institutions, and we now give every low-income student who takes the SAT four fee waivers to apply to college.
Coleman shared one success story from this initiative: “My favorite moment on the job so far has been when a student posted a picture of his fee waivers on Instagram and said, ‘The College Board sent me fee waivers because I am awesome.’ He did not say, ‘Because I am poor.’”
- End the war between college and career.
When redesigning the SAT, the College Board worked not only with educators, but with employers. We can’t ask students to work toward college without showing them how they are progressing to careers, said Coleman.
To this end, he shared a new career exploration tool, Career Finder, powered by the College Board and Roadtrip Nation.
To prepare a more diverse set of students for STEM fields and degrees specifically, the College Board has also partnered with Project Lead the Way and has launched a new computer science course, AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP).
- Credit is earned, not given.
In an American Enterprise Institute report, “AP at Scale: Public school students in Advanced Placement, 1990-2013,” researcher Nat Malkus points out that while AP participation has increased over the years, neither test scores nor rigor have dropped. “Expanding at scale without sacrificing rigor is the rarest kind of success in public education,” Malkus wrote, “and AP is showing just that.”
After Coleman celebrated the success of AP students and this program, he added: “We have an obligation to be honest with young people and their families before college”—to never give students credits when they haven’t earned it, and to never lead student to believe they’re ready for college-level work if they aren’t. “That’s not a fair bargain for anybody,” he said.
- No longer allow economies of scale to neglect rural America.
While Coleman was happy to announce that more than 2,000 high schools in America signed up for AP Computer Science Principles this year, he stressed the importance of expanding access in all kinds of communities— especially in often-overlooked rural areas.
Through partnerships with Code.org, Project Lead the Way, and the National Science Foundation, the College Board is offering high-quality computer science curriculum and professional development all across the country, with the goal of implementing AP CSP in every high school in America.
- Education is soul craft.
“When we’ve talked about college and career,” said Coleman, “I think we may have forgotten an ancient thing. Education is a precious thing; it involves the life of the soul.” He described the “gifts” religious education in particular can instill in our students, such as “productive solitude” in an age when “the technology of interruption has far outpaced the technology of concentration.”
- Knowledge matters in civic education.
Coleman referred to civic education as “the soul of our country—the place for students to get engaged in the world.” He cited the College Board’s new AP Government and Politics course as a lively framework, where students deeply study the Constitution, the separation of powers, civil liberties, and more.
- End the insanity around the admissions process.
Since becoming president of the College Board, Coleman has been struck by “the unproductive anxiety that harries children and families throughout the country.”
He encouraged students to focus, in a sustained way, on the few extracurriculars that are most meaningful to them, rather than fill up lines on their college applications with disconnected acitivites. Families, high schools, and colleges alike “need to allow more time for family, faith, and fun,” said Coleman.
- Parents and families must come first.
By redesigning score reports, providing additional fee waivers, increasing scholarships, and increasing access for students from military families, the College Board wants to be a partner to students and the caring adults in their lives. “We are redesigning everything we do to give families everything they need in one click,” said Coleman.