Prep­ping for a new SAT

Col­lege Board, Khan Academy team up on a free on­line tu­to­rial for the re­vised test.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - larry.gor­don@la­times.com Twit­ter: @lar­ry­gor­don­lat By Larry Gor­don

The re­vised ver­sion of the SAT col­lege en­trance exam won’t be of­fered un­til March but stu­dents can start pre­par­ing for it Tues­day with a new, free on­line study pro­gram af­fil­i­ated with the test.

The Col­lege Board, which ad­min­is­ters the Scholas­tic As­sess­ment Test, has joined forces with Khan Academy, the well-re­garded on­line ed­u­ca­tion non­profit based in Sil­i­con Val­ley, to cre­ate tu­to­ri­als in math and English and prac­tice tests that eval­u­ate stu­dents’ knowl­edge of those sub­jects. Of­fi­cials with both or­ga­ni­za­tions said it will help fa­mil­iar­ize col­lege ap­pli­cants with changes in the test that are meant to bet­ter align it to cur­ric­ula taught in high school class­rooms.

The Khan pro­gram presents a chal­lenge to com­mer­cial test prep firms, which main­tain that their more per­son­al­ized classes will re­main in high de­mand. It also rep­re­sents some­thing of a con­ces­sion from the Col­lege Board, which in the past min­i­mized the need for rig­or­ous prepa­ra­tion be­yond what’s learned in school.

Col­lege Board Pres­i­dent David Cole­man said in a tele­phone call with re­porters that he wants to elim­i­nate sur­prises and anx­i­ety over the new test. He pre­dicted the Khan tu­to­ri­als and their per­son­al­ized di­ag­nos­tics would per­form like good coaches aid­ing ath­letes be­fore a game so that stu­dents “can be cool and ready” on test day.

Cole­man, who pre­vi­ously had a hand in cre­at­ing the na­tional Com­mon Core stan­dards for K-12 ed­u­ca­tion, sug­gested that the Khan pro­grams also might be used as teach­ing aids in class­rooms.

The SAT’s main test will re­turn to two parts — one for math and an­other for read­ing and gram­mar — as it had been for gen­er­a­tions be­fore 2005, and the es­say-writ­ing por­tion will be an op­tional sup­ple­ment for many stu­dents. (Some schools, in­clud­ing the UC sys­tem, still re­quire it.) Cal­cu­la­tors will be banned on some math sec­tions, and stu­dents will no longer be pe­nal­ized for wrong an­swers. The most ob­scure vo­cab­u­lary words will be dropped.

The Col­lege Board and Khan Academy also an­nounced a part­ner­ship with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Amer­ica that will make the prep ses­sions avail­able at the clubs for stu­dents who don’t have com­put­ers; in­per­son tu­tors will be avail­able there for ex­tra help. Of­fi­cials said they hope that as much as 70% of the 4,100 clubs around the coun­try will join the ef­fort in a few years.

Sal­man Kahn, the founder of the on­line academy that of­fers popular lec­tures and classes on math and many other sub­jects, said the SAT tu­to­ri­als will al­low stu­dents of vary­ing skills “to start wher­ever they are” aca­dem­i­cally. The tu­to­ri­als have the ad­van­tage of be­ing cre­ated in co­op­er­a­tion with peo­ple who write SAT ques­tions, he said. The free and open ac­cess, he said, will start “to level the play­ing field” with stu­dents able to af­ford pri­vate tu­tors or coach­ing from com­mer­cial firms.

Seppy Basili, Ka­plan Test Prep’s vice pres­i­dent for col­lege ad­mis­sions and K-12 pro­grams, said the com­pany will of­fer classes and on­line ma­te­rial for the re­vised SAT in the fall.

Basili said that the Khan classes are “a recog­ni­tion that test prepa­ra­tion works, and works pretty darn well” and added that he does not think Khan’s Web pres­ence will hurt his com­pany’s busi­ness. Many stu­dents will want “some­thing ex­tra to set them­selves apart” be­yond the free classes, he said.

Ka­plan’s SAT prep cour­ses range from about $300 for an on­line pro­gram to $3,500 for 20 hours of pri­vate tu­tor­ing.

In March 2016, the first group of test tak­ers will be mainly high school ju­niors, although some se­niors may need to take it for schol­ar­ship or ath­let­ics qual­i­fi­ca­tions. The new ver­sion of the PSAT will be of­fered this fall.

About 1.7 mil­lion stu­dents last year took the SAT, which has been los­ing mar­ket share to its ri­val, ACT. Crit­ics of the SAT con­tend that the changes are mainly de­signed to make the test more like the ACT.

Bob Scha­ef­fer, public ed­u­ca­tion direc­tor of FairTest, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that ad­vo­cates for all col­leges to make ad­mis­sions tests op­tional, noted that other free test prep classes and ma­te­rial have long been avail­able. Though he praised the con­nec­tion with the Boys & Girls Clubs, Scha­ef­fer said the new classes “will do noth­ing to re­duce the de­mand for high-priced per­son­al­ized tu­tor­ing of the sort pro­vided by Ka­plan or Prince­ton Re­view.”

On­line tu­to­ri­als such as those of­fered by Khan Academy “re­quire a de­gree of self dis­ci­pline that is not typ­i­cal for teenagers,” he said.

Karen Tapia–An­der­sen Los An­ge­les Times

STU­DENTS at Sage Hill High School in New­port Beach in 2007 take the PSAT, a dry run for the Scholas­tic As­sess­ment Test. The Col­lege Board and Khan Academy have cre­ated on­line tu­to­ri­als and prac­tice ex­ams.

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