A Sneak Peek at the new SAT and ACT

The NY Times posted a story about the SAT (owned by The College Board) and ACT and how they are changing in the next few years.

 Big changes are coming to the nation’s two competing admissions tests.

Mr. Coleman, who became president last October, is intent on rethinking the SAT to make it an instrument that meshes with what students are learning in their classrooms. Meanwhile, the ACT, which has always been more curriculum-based, is the first of the two to move into the digital age. In adapting its test for the computer, ACT Inc. is tiptoeing past the fill-in-the-bubble Scantron sheets toward more creative, hands-on questions.

In their own ways, both organizations are striving to produce something beyond a college admissions test. ACT plans to start yearly testing as early as third grade to help guide students to college readiness. One of Mr. Coleman’s goals is for the College Board to help low-income students see broader college possibilities.

The changes to ACT and SAT are not necessarily just a result of Common Core Standards being released either,  ACT and College Board were early partners with the NGA and the CCSSO in the initiative before the standards were released.
 The Alignment of Common Core and ACT’s College and Career Readiness System,” June 2010 (PDF),  says,

“The Common Core State Standards Initiative is led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, in partnership with ACT, the College Board, and Achieve.”

So while the SAT and ACT may seem like competitors in the testing marketplace, they appear to be  more like companions on a journey toward one national P-20 college readiness testing track.
As part of the Common Core, two assessment consortia, SBA and PARCC, were developed to design tests for participating states.  But is that the long term plan, given that ACT and SAT were both “partners” in the development of the Common Core?
Consider the following:

1.  Chester Finn of the Fordham Foundation speculated that Smarter Balanced and PARCC Assessment Consortia may not be around forever.

“I expect that PARCC and Smarter Balanced (the two federally subsidized consortia of states that are developing new assessments meant to be aligned with Common Core standards) will fade away, eclipsed and supplanted by long-established yet fleet-footed testing firms that already possess the infrastructure, relationships, and durability that give them huge advantages in the competition for state and district business.”

2.  Cynthia B. Schmeiser former President and Chief Operating Officer of ACT, came out of retirement after 38 years at ACT., to take a new position as chief of assessments with College Board.  She also serves on the Nation Governors Association–Gates National Advisory Committee, among other committees focused on P–20 improvement
When she took  the post at College Board she said the following to Education Week,

Because education is a long-term process, a continuous process, we need to look at assessment as being in the service of education, by looking at it as a coherent system, not as just a point in time, but across time, within the whole educational process,”

A good system of assessment, Schmeiser said, would be used “earlier, to inform the educational process.”

If SAT truly were a competitor to ACT, they would need an “early” assessment system.  Education Week asked Schmeiser,  “Would the College Board seek to build a comprehensive system of tests, like the two federally funded state consortia [SBA and PARCC] are doing? (And like the ACT teamed up with Pearson to build?)

Schmeiser said only that the two consortia are doing “critically important work” that the College Board would “continue to support.”

She certainly doesn’t act like someone whose company is being threatened by the ACT or the new state testing consortia.  SBA and PARCC are doing “critically important” work like giving the appearance that the assessments are “state-led” and not driven by the ACT/SAT  partnership with Achieve and the NGA and the CCSSO    The NY Times called the Schmeiser move to the College Board a “defection” but might it foreshadow a merger?
3.  ACT and SAT both bring distinct assets together to form a coherent P-20 student testing and tracking system.   ACT Aspire provides the “earlier” testing and data tracking component while the SAT provides the popular Advanced Placement Exams which Coleman sees as a “model” for testing.   Both companies have a college-readiness exam.  However, it has been noted that the SAT is losing market share to ACT and some believe the new SAT redesign wil look more like the ACT.
Quoting from the NY Times,

“With the new redesign, the SAT seems likely to inch even closer in content to the ACT, which focuses more on grammar, usage and mechanics than on vocabulary.

 It is also significant that the ACT is going digital with the help of Pearson but it does not appear that the SAT is making the transition away from pencil and paper.
Will the SAT and ACT eventually merge and become the alternative “independent” testing powerhouse for the Common Core?  Has that been the plan all along?