The Anti-Common-Core College-Admissions Test?

By Catherine Gewertz — May 27, 2016 2 min read
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A new test is positioning itself as a non-common-core alternative to the SAT and ACT.

Word about the Vector Assessment of Readiness for College, or Vector A.R.C., has been making its way through the conservative blogosphere, which is pitching it as a tool for families who don’t want their children taking college admissions tests that reflect the Common Core State Standards. Families who home school or send their students to private schools, and those who live in states without the common core, are key audiences for Vector A.R.C.

On its website, Vector ARC goes on the attack against testing “giants” that have gained a “virtual monopoly” over widely used tests such as the SAT and ACT, and markets itself as “the antidote for Common Core-aligned college entrance exams.” Vector A.R.C. also appeals directly to the local-control sentiment that fueled the fight against the common core, using this tagline on its website:

“Working to preserve both your academic freedom AND your college options.”

“Testing can be a tool for assessing both proficiency as well as higher-learning skills,” the website says. “But when testing is driven by nationalized content, it can be a tool for disenfranchising those who have chosen an education that is not governmentally prescribed. True education is a lifelong process that extends well beyond the standardized classroom. So, why should students be limited in their options of educational instruction?”

The assessment is in beta-testing mode. Students who attended a national home-schooling convention in Cincinnati last spring were given the opportunity to take the test so developers could refine it. For that beta testing, Vector A.R.C. sought students who already had SAT or ACT scores, presumably to facilitate study of how performance on the new test compares with performance on those established exams.

Vector A.R.C. says on its website that the test was developed by “educators, policy developers, and subject-area experts,” and that “there are colleges and universities interested in and willing to accept the A.R.C. once the scores are validated,” but it offers no further details.

The Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank, has been spreading the word about Vector A.R.C. in a bid to get more families to sign their students up for beta testing and for the finished exam. Justin Haskins, the group’s executive director, wrote a piece for Forbes this week that said the test is “soon to be released,” but Vector A.R.C.'s website doesn’t give a date, and company spokeswoman Julie West wasn’t immediately available for discussion.

Haskins writes that Vector A.R.C. “will only test students on the information they actually need to be successful in college and later in life, focusing heavily on the classical Western educational standards of the past. ... If students have the skills that have been considered essential for centuries in Western nations, they will do well on the Vector A.R.C. test.”

In a post last month on the Federalist, Heartland’s senior fellow on education, Robert Holland, talked with West, who told him that the test is untimed, and gauges mastery of math through calculus, science through chemistry and physics, and English/language arts.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.