When you talk about higher education in America, there is one organization that every student and parent knows about: the College Board.
This week, as part of my work with the Faith and Education Coalition and our focus on education equality, I have the great honor of interviewing the President and CEO of the College Board David Coleman.
As president of the purveyors of the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT, as well as Advanced Placement courses that offer high school students the opportunity to earn college credit before graduating,
College Board CEO David Coleman is one of the most influential voices in all of American education. His insights into college testing, especially for Hispanic and other minority students, could make all the difference in your child’s educational success.
Q: David, what does the future of testing in high schools look like in our country?
David Coleman: Parents and students rightly have little patience for tests that don’t provide real benefits. We don’t need more tests in our country; we need more opportunities.
What does that mean? It means that when a student takes an exam, like the PSAT/NMSQT or the SAT, it must open up doors to them. This is particularly true of students who may be low-income or the first in their family to attend college.
Today, when a low-income student achieves a college ready score on the SAT, they receive four college application fee waivers that allow them to apply to college for free.
After a student takes the PSAT, they receive not only their scores but also a link to a personalized practice account on Khan Academy, which provides world-class resources to help them improve for the SAT.
More than 1 million Hispanic students took the PSAT this year, and each has the opportunity to personalized practice resources.
And on the SAT exam itself, we removed everything that was tricky or unnecessarily complicated and refocused the exam on the work students do each day in the classroom.
For example, we got rid of the dreaded “SAT words” that students only ever saw on the SAT itself, and we replaced them with vocabulary they will use over and over again in college and careers. We also removed the penalty for guessing on answers and returned to the 1600 scale. Our goal with each change was to make it easier for students to show their best work.
Q: How is this work impacting Hispanic students?
DC: I had the honor of meeting Sabrina Rosales, a senior at Cesar E. Chavez High School in Houston, last year. Sabrina spent 90 minutes after school every day practicing on Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy, which was on top of practicing in school once a week for 45 minutes.
Her hard work paid off – she improved her SAT score by 230 points. Sabrina is a stellar student, she has a 4.0 GPA, and she has her sights set on the University of Texas since she was in 5th grade. She will be the first person in her family to attend college.
At the College Board, we also create and administer the Advanced Placement Exams, which are college-level exams students can take in high school in order to save money and time in college.
One of the most joyful days at the College Board is when I heard the story about Cedrick Argueta, a Los Angeles student, son of a Salvadorian maintenance worker and a Filipino nurse, who was one of 12 students out of 302,531 worldwide to get every question right in Advanced Placement Calculus AB exam.
His story made so many headlines (including Univision’s), that last year President Obama invited him to the White House. Today, he is living his dream as a freshman at Stanford University.
As an educator, these are the kinds of stories that warm my heart and motivate me to ensure we clear the path to college for millions of students.
Q: You have spoken often about faith and education. Why do you feel so strongly about this? What unique values do you see in faith education?
DC: I believe education is soulcraft, and because of that, faith has an essential role to play in educating many young people. That is why the only op-ed I have written as president of the College Board is a defense of Wheaton College, the Evangelical Christian College in Illinois.
Faith-based education at its finest celebrates and privileges ancient virtues like productive solitude, reverent reading, and gratitude.
Religious education institutions can build on the very structure of prayer and religious practice that helps student practice being alone productively: to read well, to write well, to know God well, and to do the work. It's not something that typical academic work does and if you look at the research on deliberate practice what it finds is no matter how much group word you do, a condition of excellence – a condition of it – is productive solitary practice.
Faith has much to teach us about reading as well. When facing a difficult and beautiful text, without reverence, without a quality of submitting to it, of patiently allowing it to insist and reading it with care again and again, I think you cannot read it. To read well is a kind of supplication, and the ability to see the crafted thing is so beautiful that you experience it with reverence.
As C.S. Lewis said, “in the face of the work of art, look and look again. See exactly what is there. Forget yourself. Get out of the way.” And having a few shared texts in common, that everyone reads, allows us to have a dialogue together. I think that is worthwhile and is something we are increasingly losing.
Q: What is the College Board doing to reach out to Latino students and families as they strive toward college?
DC: We are proud to have partnered with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, led by the great Fidel Vargas, to make millions of dollars in scholarships available to Latino students who excel on the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT.
Another College Board program, the National Hispanic Recognition Program, recognizes juniors from across the country who excel on the PSAT/NMSQT. Research shows this recognition opens up many scholarship opportunities for these students, and they are more likely to attend a top college.
Finally, we know that parents are critical in helping to encourage their kids to take advantage of free practice for the SAT on Khan Academy, so we have delivered Spanish-language parent guides across the country to help make sure parents understand this opportunity and can support their students.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He has been named by CNN and Fox News as “the leader of the Hispanic Evangelical movement."
Faith and Education Coalition is an initiative of the National Hispanic Christian Leaders Conference (NHCLC), with 2,568 members representing almost 3,000 local churches in 44 states.