Common Core 'architect' deals blow to opponents with SAT revamp, say critics

The man known as the "architect" of Common Core has used his new job running the College Board to deal a devastating blow to critics of the national education standards.

The SAT was revamped to align with the Common Core Standards Initiative, the broad language and math standards adopted by 45 states despite growing complaints that it will result in nationalized control of K-12 curriculum. The announcement on Tuesday was made by College Board President David Coleman, who before taking the post in 2012, played a key role in designing Common Core.

Common Core supporters insist the program will ensure through testing a baseline level of learning throughout the nation, but critics say those tests will ensure a uniform curriculum springs up to prepare kids for the tests. Now, with the leading college entrance exam aligned with Common Core, critics acknowledge fighting Common Core could hurt students' chances of getting into universities and even property values.


“It’s a roundabout way to put pressure on states that opted out of Common Core,” said Whitney Neal, director of Grassroots at Freedom Works. “If you are legislator from Virginia let’s say, this will put pressure on you obtain material to make your district more appealing especially to homebuyers. SAT averages are often included in realtor information and high school success rate is always a selling point.”

On the same day the SAT changes were announced, the Arizona senate voted down a bill that would have repealed that state's participation in Common Core. Although Arizona voted to participate in the program in 2010, its increasing unpopularity prompted the vote as well as Gov. Jan Brewer's move to rename the standards the "Arizona College and Career Ready Standards."

Coleman's move to revamp the SAT in time for 2016 includes placing more emphasis on analysis, moving the scoring back to a 1,600-point scale, giving students the option of taking it on computer and replacing "old" SAT words with new ones deemed more common in higher education, such as "empirical" and "synthesis." Math questions will focus more narrowly on linear equations, functions and proportional thinking.

Coleman, who made the announcement in Austin, saying the test should offer "worthy challenges, not artificial obstacles," has been upfront about his plan to align the test with Common Core, but the formal announcement caught many by surprise.

“What we have seen is that most people have no idea of most of these changes being made,” Neal said. “That allowed them to make these changes without much of the general public even realizing that they did.”

Katherine Levin, spokeswoman for the College Board, defended the SAT changes.

“The focus of the assessments is to measure what is essential for college and career readiness, not any one set of standards," Levin said in a statement. "The College Board assessments measure the knowledge and skills that research shows to be essential for college and career readiness and success.”

Officials for ACT, the College Board’s main competition for standardized testing, said Coleman's group is simply playing catch-up to improvements they had made a long time ago.

“Our reaction is that most of their changes validate our approach,” Paul Weeks, vice president of Customer Engineering for ACT, told “They are getting in line with a path we have been down for a while.”