College & Workforce Readiness

Common-Standards Writer Named President of College Board

By Catherine Gewertz — May 16, 2012 2 min read
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The College Board has announced a new president and chief executive officer: David Coleman, one of the lead writers of the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts.

The New York City-based organization made the announcement early this morning. Coleman will take over Oct. 15, replacing Gaston Caperton, who has served for 13 years as president of the organization best known for the SAT college-entrance exam and the Advanced Placement program.

Currently, Coleman is one of three founding partners of Student Achievement Partners, a New York City-based organization that played a leading role in crafting the academic standards that have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia. His co-founders are Susan Pimentel, who served as a lead writer of the English/language arts standards, and Jason Zimba, a lead writer of the mathematics standards.

Coleman told Education Week that he hopes to align the SAT to reflect the common standards, a move that would help ensure, he said, that students who do well on the exam possess the skills that colleges and universities are seeking.

Student Achievement Partners recently reorganized itself as a nonprofit and won an $18 million grant from the GE Foundation to create a range of support materials for the common standards, as we reported to you in February.

The organization has stirred controversy with its “publishers’ criteria,” which are meant to guide publishers and teachers as they assemble materials for the new standards, but have touched off resentment in some quarters that they wade inappropriately into pedagogy. Those criteria have also fueled a debate about the role of prereading strategies in literacy instruction.

A key aim of the common standards, as you likely recall, is to make students ready for college and careers. While debate persists on precisely what constitutes college and career readiness, the standards articulate one vision of that readiness, and the U.S. Department of Education has granted $360 million to two groups of states that are designing assessments to reflect that vision.

Many colleges and universities have pledged support to the idea of allowing students who reach a “college readiness” cutoff on those “common assessments” to skip remedial work and enroll directly in credit-bearing, entrance-level courses. The tests are far from being ready, however, and that cutoff score has yet to be determined.

Aligning the SAT with the common core would touch on a piece of the college-readiness formula that higher education’s support of the common assessments does not reach, and it’s a highly sensitive piece: college admissions. Shifting the college-entrance exam to embody the new standards would involve the same significant shifts that mark the standards themselves.

Top education leaders—including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a big fan of the common standards—are on record in the College Board’s press release as commending Coleman’s selection as the organization’s new leader.

Coleman’s biographical details are in the College Board’s press release. How his life and priorities reshape the work of the College Board in the coming years bears watching.

Photo: Courtesy Student Achievement Partners

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.