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David Coleman ’91:
overhauling the SAT

“We have a crisis in education, and over the next few years, the main thing on the College Board’s agenda is to deliver its social mission,” David Coleman ’91 told the New York Times in 2012, when he was named to head the private, nonprofit organization.

This week, he unveiled part of that agenda with an overhaul of the SAT.

Beginning in the spring of 2016, the college-entrance test will "will reflect the best of classroom work" and "deliver opportunity," the College Board says.

The test overhaul represents "a fundamental rethinking of the SAT," the Times says. The main changes: making the essay portion optional (and thereby reverting to the 1600-point scale for verbal and math scores); eliminating the penalty for wrong guesses; and ditching obscure vocabulary words, substituting collegiate ones like "empirical" and "synthesis." Those changes are intended to align the test with what students actually learn in high school. (The Times also devotes a feature article to "The Story Behind The SAT Overhaul" in its upcoming magazine.)

On the opportunity side, a press release announces "bold plans." One step is to make it easier for lower-income students to get fee waivers. The other is to "provide the world with free test preparation materials for the redesigned SAT."

Coleman "grew up in a family of educators," tutored low-income high school students while at Yale and started an "innovative community service program for inner-city" New Haven kids, his official bio says. After a Rhodes Scholarship and a consulting stint at McKinsey, he went on to develop and promote the "common core" curriculum for K-12 schools nationwide.

The SAT overhaul gets mixed reviews in the Chronicle of Higher Education. "My first reaction—ambitious and bold," said one college admissions dean. But the director of a a group that works with low-income students says the changes don't address the underlying problem: "a test that has been demonstrated to systematically understate the abilities of low-income and underserved minority students."


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under College Board, SATs
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