Justice O'Connor Applauds New College Entrance Exam Format

Monday, 21 Apr 2014 11:23 PM

By Jason Devaney

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Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is embracing recent changes in the SAT college entrance exam.

O'Connor, chairwoman of iCivics Inc., co-wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal with iCivics Executive Director Jeff Curley. In the article, O'Connor says changes in the SATs — which include dropping the essay and some vocabulary words — will force students to learn what the Founding Fathers wrote because the College Board has pledged that every test taker will read a passage from one of "America's founding documents or the great global conversation they inspired."

Also, the College Board, O'Connor writes, will provide free test preparation services.

"Millions of students taking the SAT will now encounter texts like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as well as the writings of individuals from James Madison to Martin Luther King Jr.," O'Connor writes.

"But old test-prep methods like flashcards and rote memorization will not be sufficient. Students will need more sophisticated tools to help them understand the material and engage with it. Digital technology will be essential to achieving that goal."

iCivics is a nonprofit that provides digital tools to students "to become knowledgeable and engaged citizens," according to its website. More than 40,000 educators and 3 million students use iCivics in civics classes every year.

O'Connor said students and teachers must embrace digital learning tools in this age of technology.

"Blended learning — combining digital tools with supervised instruction — incorporates the best of what teachers do with the support of instructional technologies that help strengthen the time that teachers spend with their students," O'Connor writes. "This kind of blended learning is particularly effective for tackling difficult subject matter.

"Progress has always been about a tension between the old and the new. The rapidly changing world has made the age-old skills of deep reading and command of historical documents more important than ever. And the very accelerant of these changes — technology — provides the opportunity to more effectively teach and learn those timeless disciplines."

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