Clickbait Headlines to Connect SAT Breach With Common Core Jump the Shark

A months-long, multi-part investigation from Reuters now shows that the College Board did not take steps necessary to protect “material being developed for the new SAT.” Shortly after the new SAT was revealed in March, “a person with access to material for upcoming versions of the redesigned exam provided Reuters with hundreds of confidential test items.” The wire service notes that it’s not clear “how widely the items have circulated” nor whether materials have been obtained by “bad actors” – groups the College Board “says will lie, cheat and steal for personal gain.” The College Board is “taking the test forms with stolen content off of the SAT administration schedule” but has declined to say whether the next scheduled SAT – Oct. 1 – will be cancelled or delayed as a result of the breach.

Unfortunately, some conservative news outlets (notably Breitbart and the Weekly Standard) are conflating the SAT breach with the transition of SAT to align with the Common Core standards in order to create clickbait headlines. Noting College Board President David Coleman’s ties to the Common Core, the outlets are attempting to take away from  Coleman’s decision to overhaul the SAT two years ago.

Coleman led the charge to ensure that the SAT is more “focused and useful, more clear and open than ever before – better reflecting what students learn in high school and what they need to master in college or on the job,” but many have argued that it is a continuation of the Common Core.

Coleman has cited concerns from college “admissions officers and counselors” that the tests were “disconnected from the work of high school classrooms and surrounded by costly test preparation” as the major reason for the SAT overhaul.

Standards are simply grade-level benchmarks. One should not conflate standards and the assessment that measure whether or not students are learning material from the classroom.

The shift in the SAT came at the same time as states continued moving to new statewide, annual assessments like PARCC and Smarter Balanced that, for the first time, are aligned specifically to the Common Core. States like Louisiana and New York are seeing modest improvements in overall scores – with students showing deeper and more full comprehension of what they are learning in classrooms and how that can be applied to real-world situations.

Higher education leaders have endorsed the Common Core standards as being more rigorous and of higher quality than the patchwork benchmarks states had created on their own for years. Furthermore, college chancellors and others criticized efforts by states like Indiana and Oklahoma to repeal-and-replace the Common Core, noting that it would be near-impossible to create high-quality standards that bore no resemblance to the Common Core State Standards.

It is clear that this leak of test questions is meant to undermine the use of assessments, and likely has little to do with the standards themselves. But efforts like these to undermine the shift to assessments that promote excellent in-classroom instruction and allow teachers to coordinate outside of their individuals schools and districts for the first time are waning, and rightly so. Creating a tenuous connection between a security breach and alignment with the standards proves only that anti-Common Core media outlets and organizations are jumping the shark.