Education Week - March 16, 2016 - (Page 9)

BLOGS SAT Test-Taking Declines in Settings Not Sponsored by States or Districts | HIGH SCHOOL & BEYOND | The number of students taking the SAT in programs sponsored by their states or districts has soared by 89 percent between last March and this March, while the number opting to take it on their own, outside those programs, has dropped 22 percent in the same period. The overall 1.5 percent increase is driven by the rise in the number of tests being given as part of the College Board's "school day" program, which allows states or districts to give the test to all their juniors or make it available for those students. The "national" program reflects the students who take the SAT on their own. Nearly 23 percent fewer students took the SAT that way this month than did so in March 2015. The College Board has been pushing hard to secure more statewide contracts. That's been ACT's modus operandi for many years, and it has a long list of statewide contracts to boast about. For the College Board, the list is small but growing. Five states-Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, and New Hampshire-currently require all juniors to take the SAT. Others, such as Idaho, offer it to all students for free but don't require it. Some districts, such as New York City and Houston, have similar programs. Such initiatives aim to reduce college-application barriers. As the debut of the redesigned SAT drew near, counselors and test-prep professionals speculated that administration numbers would be much lower than last year, since many counselors had advised students to wait until early kinks, if any, had been worked out. That prediction seems to have held true in the slice of the SAT world where students choose for themselves whether to take it. Some positive reports have emerged from the frontlines of the new SAT's maiden voyage this month, however. Kaplan Test Prep surveyed 500-plus students who took the test, and 60 percent said they found the questions straightforward. About the same proportion, though, criticized the test-section lengths as too long. Forty-eight percent said the test was about as difficult as they'd expected, 30 percent said it was tougher, and 22 percent said it was easier than they'd expected. College Board officials have emphasized that the new SAT was designed to better reflect what students learn in high school. But if the Kaplan survey is any indicator, that might not be taking shape the way they'd hoped. When Kaplan asked students if the new SAT reflected what they have learned in high school, 16 percent said "very much so," 56 percent said "somewhat," 23 percent said "not too much," and 5 percent responded "not at all." -CATHERINE GEWERTZ Over Objections, Fla. Lawmakers Renew Teacher-Bonus Program | TEACHING NOW | Florida's controversial teacher bonus-pay program will live another year. The program, known as Best & Brightest, pays teachers bonuses based on two criteria: a ranking of at least "effective" on the state teacher-evaluation system and their own SAT or ACT scores. Lawmakers approved the program last July as part of a budget deal, allotting it $44 million. In a budget compromise announced last week, lawmakers agreed to renew the program after days of closed-door negotiations, according to The Miami Herald. The funding has been a priority for soon-to-be House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Republican. The program also received an additional $5 million in the budget, for a total of $49 million. This year, Best & Brightest paid out just over $8,000 in bonus money to each of the 5,200 teachers who qualified. But in December, the Florida Education Association filed a complaint with the federal government asserting that the program discriminates against older teachers, who might have difficulty getting their test records, as well as teachers of color, who historically do worse on standardized tests. Even many young teachers may run into problems applying if they pursued teaching through community colleges, which often don't require the SAT or ACT. Supporters of the program contend that it will help improve teacher recruitment and retention. A spokesperson for the state education department said via email, however, that it would be difficult to evaluate that claim "without several years of data." Many Democrats and Republicans in the Florida legislature have publicly opposed the program. Some lawmakers had attempted to separate the program from the state budget in order to try to vet it, but such attempts stalled, the Herald reports. "It's too bad we didn't get to that point. I would rather vote it down and kill it permanently, because it's the worst and dumbest," said GOP Sen. Nancy Detert. -ROSS BRENNEMAN NOW MOBILE-FRIENDLY Stay on top of the most timely news from the most informed source in education. Join the thousands of readers who have signed up to receive one of Education Week's topical e-newsletters. TOPICS INCLUDE n The teaching profession n Technology n Curriculum n The Common Core n The K-12 marketplace n The education job market SIGN UP NOW. Over 40 programs. Onsite and online. For teachers, principals, and district leaders. UPCOMING PROGRAMS Harvard Institute for Superintendents and District Leaders May 15-18 Closing the Achievement Gap: Strategies for Excellence with Equity June 27 - July 1 Find Yours Today EDUCATION WEEK | March 16, 2016 | | 9

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 16, 2016

Education Week - March 16, 2016
States Hit Accelerator On Accountability
Immigrant Influxes Test U.S. Schools
Researchers Flag Downside Of Moving to Better Schools
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Potential Use of ‘Blockchain’ Tech for K-12 Debated by Experts
Blogs of the Week
Early-Education Measures Percolating at State, Local Levels
Acting Ed. Secretary Urges Congress to Renew Career-Tech Law
ESSA Rulemaking: A Guide to Negotiations
Blogs of the Week
ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN: Keeping Schoolhouse Doors Open for Immigrant Children
GARRETT NEIMAN: For Disadvantaged Students, New SAT Is First Step
Q&A With Author David Denby: A Quest for ‘Serious’ Reading In the Digital Age
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
ARNOLD PACKER: Should Citizenship Be a Goal of Education?

Education Week - March 16, 2016