Skip to content

NYTimes…Everything You Need to Know about the New SAT

Credit Roger Chouinard

The new SAT will soon arrive on a wave of bold promises. The College Board has said its redesigned admission test would contain “no more mysteries.” Instead of being a riddle to solve, it would correspond with high-school curriculums and better reflect what students have learned.

The pitch sounds good. But is it true?

In the spirit of good prep, let’s review what we know so far. The new SAT, which debuts in March, will look a lot different from the current version. Instead of three sections, there will be two: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. Each will be scored on a 200-to-800 scale. There will no longer be a penalty for guessing, and the odds will be better (the number of possible answers will decrease from 5 to 4). The now-required essay will be optional.

As for content, the revamped test draws heavily from the Common Core — math and reading benchmarks adopted by most states. Those standards emphasize evidence-based interpretations of texts, vocabulary used in college and careers, and depth-over-breadth math skills. And yes, although the exam will not be the mirror image of the ACT, the two are about to become much more similar.

The changes get mixed reviews. Some testing experts who’ve studied theCollege Board’s sample questions describe them as more relevant and less gimmicky. Others foresee problems, especially for those who struggle with reading.

“The new SAT will align better with what kids are learning in school,” said Ned Johnson, founder of PrepMatters, a test-preparation service in Bethesda, Md., and co-author of “Conquering the SAT.” “But if you haven’t gone to a school that’s prepared you well, the test isn’t going to serve you well.”

Although the SAT is evolving, not all of its stripes are changing. Test-taking savvy is still going to make a big difference when students pick up those No. 2 pencils. So let’s take a closer look at some of the changes — and why they matter.

First, the reading section won’t be so “recondite,” because obscure words like that are disappearing. The test will no longer ask students to complete sentences. Now they will have to derive the meaning of widely used words based on context. Test takers should expect to see words that can be used in different ways (“measured,” “disposed”). Instead of recalling a definition from vocabulary flash cards, they’ll have to read prose passages carefully to choose an answer.

How should students prepare? By reading often and diving into various kinds of texts, especially nonfiction, tutors say. That’s more a long-term strategy than a quick test-prep trick. Habitual reading can also help on the writing section, which will demand prolonged concentration. To answer questions about grammar, punctuation and usage, students will have to wade through extended passages relating to history, humanities and science.

What’s true of the writing section is true of the new SAT in general: There’s much more to read. “The most fundamental change is that there are many, many more words,” said Aaron Golumbfskie, education director for PrepMatters. “If you don’t read well and happily, this test isn’t going to be your friend.”

Even the math section will require more reading, with fewer questions based on equations and more word problems. Some prompts will present the same type of real-world situations that the Common Core emphasizes — “The recommended daily calcium intake for a 20-year-old is 1,000 milligrams (mg). One cup of milk contains 299 mg….” Mr. Golumbfskie describes the math section as “tighter in focus.” The current test covers a lot of ground, with a question or two on each topic; the new one will drill down into a few key areas. Geometry is fading out. Algebra is stepping up: Prepare for linear equations and inequalities, and systems of equations in two variables.

The addition of more-advanced math, such as trigonometry, means the test will cover material from a greater number of courses. That will make it more difficult for students to take the SAT early. Some questions will require knowledge of statistics, a course relatively few students take in high school. And because one math section will prohibit the use of a calculator, students who use them in class may want to practice tackling calculations with pencil and paper.

After getting through all that math, test takers who opt to write the essay will have a much different assignment than they do today. The prompts, which will look familiar to those who’ve taken Advanced Placement English, ask for a critical response to a specific argument. In: analysis. Out: writing about your personal experiences. For example: Read excerpts from a 1967 speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and explain how he used evidence, reasoning and/or stylistic elements to support his argument that American involvement in the Vietnam War was unjust.

As much as any other modification, the new essay captures the spirit of the new SAT, which underscores the importance of evidence. Questions throughout will require students to cite specific examples that support their answers. No longer can they get by on writing skills alone.

With all the new stuff to consider, it’s easy to forget about what’s not changing. At 3 hours 50 minutes (with the essay), the SAT is still a long, exhausting test. Besides measuring what students have learned, it will measure how they perform under pressure in a high-stakes situation — just like the old model.

Adam Ingersoll, a founder of Compass Education Group, a California test-prep service, said the College Board has made the SAT more resistant to the beat-the-test strategies his industry is known for teaching: “The mysteriousness of the test — they are actively trying to bleed that out.”

But maybe not completely. While poring over sample questions, Mr. Ingersoll spotted the same “trap doors” — questions designed to distract or confuse and to enhance the test’s difficulty — that he finds in the current version.

Colleges use the SAT to sort applicants, and a wide distribution of scores helps them do that. “You can’t have all students getting a 750,” Mr. Ingersoll said. “It needs to be a benchmark of students’ achievement, but that is at odds with selective colleges’ need to have a test that sorts and ranks. These quirks and trap doors make the test perform the way it needs to.

So the big question burning up the web: Which version should I take? The answer could come down to timing. Students have just three more chances to take the current SAT — the last testing date is Jan. 23.

One advantage of sticking with the current version: It’s a known quantity, and plenty of review materials exist. Those who were happy with their PSAT scores might want to take the soon-to-be-old SAT, which would look familiar to them. “There’s not a test-prep tutor anywhere who could look a family in the eye and say, ‘We can do as good a job for you on the new SAT this year,’ ” Mr. Ingersoll said.

Most students take the SAT for the first time in spring of their junior year. Those who don’t want to rush might decide that the new test, though less familiar, fits their schedule better. But remember this: The first cohort to take the new SAT, in March, won’t get their scores until after the next test date, in May. That’s about double the current wait time.

The second question everyone is asking: Is the new test harder? No, several test preppers insist, though some students might stumble over the longer reading passages, the deeper dive into math and questions that require multiple steps to reach an answer. Those concerns could drive many students to take the old test — or the ACT.

Some expect that the new SAT will be even more challenging for the disadvantaged. By weaving more tightly into high-school curriculum, the test would seem to best serve students at high-performing schools, with the strong teachers who prepare them for state standards, as well as affluent students with access to test prep.

“There’s a new body style on the Chevrolet, but it has zero to do with performance — the engine’s the same,” said Jay Rosner, the Princeton Review Foundation’s executive director, who tutors low-income and underrepresented minority students. “It’s going to generate the same hierarchy of scores that exists now.”

Eric Hoover is a senior writer covering admissions at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

California ranks worst in the nation according to The Associated Press

California ranks worst in nation for guidance counselors

By Brenda Iasevoli, The Associated Press

Posted: 01/21/15, 10:44 AM PST|


The Hechinger Report

LOS ANGELES >> California ranks worst in the nation when it comes to providing students with guidance counselors, according to the U.S. Department of Education, and authorities say the scarcity disproportionately affects the state’s most vulnerable students because there simply are not enough counselors to track transient students and make sure they are taking the right credits to graduate.

The problem is most pronounced in impoverished districts, where, for a variety of reasons, students are most often on the move. Foster kids bounce around. Other kids move with parents who are looking for jobs, and some are sent to live with relatives until their parents can get on their feet.

Transient students need guidance counselors to help them figure out their next steps. California law requires that transcripts follow students to their next school within two days of transfer. But with so few counselors, mistakes happen. The American School Counselor Association recommends a student-to-counselor ratio of 250-to-1. In California, the ratio was 1,016-to-1 for the 2010-11 school year, the latest for which data is available.

Transcripts, which are solely schools’ responsibility, may never be sent, or they get lost and no one follows up. At the new school, counselors have to assign kids to classes without ever seeing a transcript. Students end up taking courses that don’t count toward graduation.

“If you ask a teacher or a counselor why this happens, they’ll often say, ‘We didn’t have a transcript,’” said Debra Sacks of Come Back Kids, a charter school that helps dropouts in Riverside County. “You have people just assigning classes without truly evaluating the needs of the students, and that’s just negligent.”

The decline in school counselors can be traced back to Proposition 13, according to Loretta Whitson, executive director of the California Association of School Counselors. The initiative, passed by California voters in 1978, lowered property taxes at a time when home values and thus tax assessments were skyrocketing. Senior citizens on fixed incomes were in danger of getting priced out of their homes. As a side effect of Prop. 13, districts could no longer raise property taxes to fund education and were forced instead to rely on state funding and to fight with competing interests for the money.


The problem became worse when large numbers of counselors were laid off in California during the economic downturn that began in 2008. At the start of the recession, the state employed 7,839 counselors. Kathleen Rakestraw of the American School Counselor Association says that number dropped to 6,191 by the 2010-11 school year.

The impact of the layoffs has been compounded by the state’s extraordinary population growth and by overcrowded schools. California does not mandate counselors, so schools don’t have to employ them, and there is no one at the state education department whose job it is to advocate for their hiring. All of these factors, on top of the recession, have produced what Whitson calls a “perfect storm.”

Switching schools nearly cost Jose Salas a diploma. In his freshman year of high school, his mother kicked him out when she learned he was gay. He bounced from one friend’s house to another, and to a new high school each year: Hawthorne High in South Los Angeles, Edison High in Fresno, Morningside High in Inglewood. Somehow he stayed on track to graduate.

Yet the high school where he enrolled next, Hillcrest Continuation High School in Inglewood, placed him in remedial classes usually assigned to students learning English. He took and passed 35 credits’ worth in the fall semester before dropping out. Any guidance counselor looking at his transcripts would have seen that Salas had passed Advanced Placement English as an 11th-grader and didn’t need those classes, said Nicole Patch, a counselor at YouthBuild Charter School of California, where Salas earned his high school diploma in 2013 at the age of 22.

“I have no idea why they placed him in that set of classes,” Patch said. “This is a kid who had the skills. The work was being done. The school should have placed him in government and other courses he actually needed.”

By the time Salas graduated, he had 268.5 credits. He only needed 200. Salas says he trusted his counselors to place him in required classes. “It is frustrating that things don’t work that way.”

Hillcrest High Continuation School, where Salas took the unnecessary credits, needed an overhaul, according to former Inglewood High School Principal Debbie Tate.

“It was essentially a dumping ground where schools sent their behavior problems,” she said.

Tate has since taken over Hillcrest, now called Inglewood Continuation School. Under Tate’s direction, the school has earned state accreditation, which means its courses now are aligned with college requirements. Tate acknowledges that transcripts get lost and that there isn’t enough support staff to track them down. That’s why she doesn’t leave anything to chance: She personally reviews each of her students’ transcripts.

Whitson hopes California schools soon will be able to provide more counselors where they are needed. Under a new funding law, more money will go to schools serving low-income students, foster children and students learning English. But districts can use this money as they see fit, and they may choose not to use it for guidance counselors.

L.A. Times reports great news for Latino high school students applying to the UC system…the numbers are up!!!

UC system reports record number of applications for fall 2015 semester
UCLA tour
A group of prospective students tours the UCLA campus. UCLA received a record 112,000 freshman and transfer applications for the fall, the most of any other four-year university in the nation, campus officials said. (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)
By CARLA RIVERA contact the reporter Education Students Colleges and Universities High Schools Minority Groups UCLA

UC system receives record number of applications, with more than third submitted by Latino students
The University of California received a record number of applications from an increasingly diverse pool of candidates, with more than a third of them Latinos for the first time, officials announced Monday.

Overall, 193,873 students sought entrance to at least one of UC’s nine undergraduate campuses for fall 2015, a 5.8% increase over the number of applications for fall 2014, according to preliminary data. The number of freshman applications —158,146 — represented a 6.5% increase.

Applications from California high school seniors rose by 3.2% over last year, while the number of Latino, African American and transfer students seeking admission also inched up.

UC and Cal State hope for more funding than Brown offers
UC and Cal State hope for more funding than Brown offers
The UC data follow a report last month from the California State University system showing a record 790,000 applications received by the 23-campus system for fall 2015, up 30,000 from the previous year.

First-time freshman applications to Cal State increased to 552,642 from 526,798, while transfer applications increased to 238,258 from 234,659.

At UC, Latinos, who make up the largest group of public school students in the state, increased their share of California freshman applications to 34.1% from 32.7% last year. The share of applications from African Americans rose to 6.1% from 5.9%.

“The data show that the University of California continues to draw unprecedented numbers of top-notch students eager to learn and contribute,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement.

UC Merced, the newest campus in the system, counted the largest increase in applications — 14.1% — while those to UC Riverside rose 9.8%. Applications to UC Irvine rose 7.7% and those to UCLA 6.5%.

lRelated Move to simplify federal student aid application form gains traction
Move to simplify federal student aid application form gains traction

The Westwood campus received a record 112,000 freshman and transfer applications for the fall, the most of any other four-year university in the nation, campus officials said.

Applications for admission to UCLA increased at almost every level, including those from California, out-of-state and international students. The number of applications for African Americans and Latinos rose 13% and 5.6%, respectively. White applicants grew 5.4% and Asian Americans 4.8%.

UCLA has come under scrutiny for its low numbers of black and Latino undergraduates since the 1996 passage of Proposition 209, which prohibits public institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity in employment and education decisions.

The data show that the University of California continues to draw unprecedented numbers of top-notch students eager to learn and contribute.
– UC President Janet Napolitano
But UC officials said they’ve made progress in recruiting strong candidates from economically disadvantaged schools, where minority students and those who are the first in their family to attend college are strongly represented.

UC’s application figures represent 11 consecutive years of growth, fueled in part by an increased recognition of the necessity of a college degree and more high school seniors obtaining the academic credentials to qualify for UC, said spokeswoman Dianne Klein.

In addition, many students view a UC education as a bargain in comparison with other leading public and private research institutions, Klein said.

The UC application period closed on Nov. 30, a few weeks after Napolitano announced controversial plans to boost current undergraduate tuition of $12,192 by as much as 5% each year for the next five years unless the state increases funding.

Part of the additional revenues would be used to increase enrollment of California undergraduates by 5,000 over the next five years.

While I am sure that it is heartwarming to have students who are the first in their family to go to college, these students are usually ill-prepared to understand the demands of a rigorous academic environment. These students are more likely to drop out, wasting space that could have been…
AT 7:13 AM JANUARY 15, 2015

Demand has increased even as projections show the number of California high school graduates declining.

Nearly 103,000 California high school seniors applied to UC for the fall, and all nine undergraduate campuses received more applications overall from California residents than the previous year, according to the data.

Meanwhile, the rate of increase in out-of-state applications declined. About 30,517 high school seniors from other states applied for fall, a 16.7% jump from last year , while out-of-state transfers increased by 14%. By comparison, the increase in out-of-state applications from fall 2013 to fall 2014 was about 19%.

California colleges see surge in efforts to unionize adjunct faculty
California colleges see surge in efforts to unionize adjunct faculty
UC has sought to increase nonresident students — who pay about triple the tuition of residents — for the revenue they bring. But the strategy has come under increasing scrutiny from critics who say it shortchanges California students.

UC leaders have indicated willingness to study the limits of nonresident enrollment. But Klein said there is nothing to indicate the controversy has swayed out-of-state applications in either direction.

“We’re in a global economy where everyone learns from others of different backgrounds,” Klein said. “We shouldn’t all be the same. But we should be cognizant of the fact that we’re a California institution and we’re going to preserve that identity.”

In other data, UC reported that California freshman and transfer students on average applied to four campuses (overall transfer applications were up 2.6% from last fall).

Applications from Californians of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent grew while those from American Indian and whites fell slightly.
At UCLA, about 38% of applicants were from low-income families and more than 41% said they would be the first in their families to graduate from a four-year college.

The numbers reflect expanded outreach to under-served communities, including rural Central Valley cities and 20 high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District that typically send few graduates to UC, said Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, UCLA’s associate vice chancellor for enrollment management.

“We are extremely pleased that our applicant pool is stronger and more diverse,” said Copeland-Morgan.

Most freshmen will be notified of admissions decisions by April 1 with transfer notifications a few weeks later. Last fall, UC admitted 58.4% of freshmen applicants and 71% of transfers overall. But the rates vary greatly by campus, with UC Berkeley admitting 17.3% of applicants and UCLA 18.2%.

Twitter: @carlariveralat

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Ratio of 500 to 1 or in California 800 to 1??? That is….students to college counselors at public high schools!!!

We love our job, but it is evident every day that our job is a necessity!!! The article below is frightening, but real.  If your child is lucky enough to be enrolled at a private school rejoice, if not, please look for resources that will help with the college process.  People like us are out there!

College Student’s Wake Up!!!

College is unique.  It is the time to stretch and grow.  We need fresh ideas and people with the commitment to make change possible.  Frank Bruni’s article in the New York Times, published Sunday, September 6, 2014 addresses these challenges.

Elite schools like to talk the talk but NOT walk the walk when it comes to enrollment of the poor


According to the New York Times, little progress has been made in acceptance rates at elite schools of the poor:

U.S. News & World Report College Ranking System….BEWARE!!!

It is about time that other institutions and/or publications weigh in on college ranking.

Money magazine released a new list of best colleges focused on what is on the minds of many parents and students: money. Babson ranked No. 1.
Read the article here:

The Decade’s Hottest Schools — According to the Daily Beast

We thought you would enjoy seeing this list.  Many of the schools are currently on our students’ college lists.   This is just — another — confirmation that there are great choices of colleges all over the country — and world (note St. Andrew’s).


4th Grade Student from Sylvan Elementary School

4th Grade student’s from Sylvan Elementary School were asked to write a mission statement about their life.  My friend who teaches ceramics there saw this

statement and thought it says it just right….do well, go to college and have a good life.  Simple and heartfelt.


photo (1)

Financial Aid Scammers Want You!

Don’t be duped! If you are the parent of a high school junior and the looming anxiety of senior year with testing, college applications and financial aid forms has crept into your family, your home, your life, slow down, take a breath and know that you and your student WILL make it through.

This is a time however, where companies that offer services to help you find money for college, complete your FAFSA and/or find scholarships, capitalize on all your fears, worries and insecurities.

There is ample free support for all these processes and the money you would spend is best put toward that college tuition bill.   As two experts in the field of Financial Aid, Carol Stack and Ruth Vedvik in their The Financial Aid Handbook (a highly recommended reference) say, “Anyone who charges you to find scholarships for you is scamming you. They’re taking advantage of your fear, your youth and your parent’s desire to get you into college.”

The same is true of companies that charge to complete your FAFSA. The FAFSA website and phone support are actually very good…they will walk you through the entire process if you have all your documentation together.

It is hard to stay calm in the face of the mounting tide of uncertainties, but your demeanor sets the tone so have confidence in your abilities and reach out for help…the answers are out there.