SAT may not align with NH learning standards, research suggests

Used as the statewide assessment for 11th graders, report says the tests weren't designed to measure how well students are meeting academic benchmarks.

New Hampshire has used the College Board’s SAT assessment to satisfy the high school testing requirement since 2015. Since then, every 11th grader has taken the test in lieu of the Smarter Balanced Assessment that younger students take.

However, a new report from Achieve suggests that the SAT doesn’t fully align with the state’s learning standards and could be driving classroom instruction away from the math and English benchmarks that NH wants to assure all students reach:

Using a college admissions test as the statewide summative assessment is an attractive but risky option for some policymakers and parents. These assessments are used for admissions by nearly all higher education institutions, are shorter in length than most state-designed and consortia assessments, have brand name recognition, and are known for predicting first-year college performance. However, notwithstanding their appeal and instrumental value for college admissions, neither the ACT nor College Board, the developer of the SAT, developed these tests as measures of how well students are meeting state mathematics and English language arts (ELA) standards, which is the primary purpose of state accountability tests. When they are used as a state’s mathematics and ELA tests — when they “count” for schools, educators, and students — there is the greatest likelihood that they will drive classroom instruction more than state standards do…

Three recent independent studies, using different but complementary approaches to examine alignment and other important issues, raise several challenges to using these college admissions tests to assess student achievement of state standards. Taken together, these studies point to significant challenges for states in using college admissions tests to measure student learning against state content standards or as a significant factor in state accountability systems. Below, we briefly summarize the major findings of each study, and follow that with a set of implications and recommendations for states.

In 2016, Delaware and Maine, which adopted the SAT as their statewide summative high school assessment, commissioned an alignment study of the SAT from HumRRO. Both states adopted the Common Core State Standards. The study noted that the “SAT is reasonably aligned to the high school reading and writing portions of the CCSS, but less so for the math portions.”

On the SAT Reading test, the study found that reviewers agreed with College Board’s alignment claims on 76 percent of items. In Writing/Language, 76 percent of items had item agreement. In mathematics, however, there was only 47 percent alignment agreement between the College Board and reviewers. The study noted that there were a number of below-high school mathematics items and that the SAT did not adequately assess geometry or statistics, which are present in the state standards.

The HumRRO study recommended that states using the SAT should supplement mathematics to cover content in underaddressed areas, particularly geometry and statistics, and supplement the number of high school level items given the amount of below-grade content covered.

College admissions tests have a long track record of providing value for institutions of higher education in providing predictive value for student success in entry-level college courses. However, college admissions tests were not designed to measure the full range of mathematics and ELA content that is reflected in state content standards. As shown
in independent studies, these assessments have significant issues with alignment to state high school standards, particularly in mathematics. The misalignment between these tests and standards send the wrong signals to high school educators about what should be taught in mathematics and English language arts courses. States, for important equity reasons, should continue to find ways to offer students the opportunity to take a college admissions test, but should avoid the use of these assessments for accountability.

The Executive Council unanimously approved the use of the SAT as a statewide assessment in 2015. At the time, the Department of Education praised the decision:

“The New Hampshire Department of Education has worked with its school districts to find consensus around using an assessment at the high school that may be more valuable to students — an assessment that they would find helpful as they are preparing for life after high school,” said Commissioner Virginia Barry. “The request from the field to use the SAT for the high school statewide assessment has been widely accepted throughout the state.”

Then-Governor Maggie Hassan also praised the decision, saying it would reduce testing time and increase access to higher education:

“Having local schools offer the College Board SAT as the statewide assessment for 11th graders helps increase access to higher education and reduce standardized test time for our students, and I am proud to have signed a bipartisan bill last year to streamline that process,” Governor Hassan said. “By continuing to take steps to strengthen college- and career-readiness standards, we can help ensure that our young people are developing the skills and innovative thinking needed for success in 21st century jobs.”

Source: What Gets Tested Gets Taught: Cautions for Using College Admissions Tests in State Accountability Systems | Achieve