In Hillside's view, the changes to the SAT Essay that the College Board has announced — to be implemented in Spring 2016 — appear to be good ones:
The focus of the Essay section on the redesigned SAT will be very different from the essay on the current SAT. Students will read a passage and explain how the author builds an argument. They’ll need to support their claims with evidence from the passage. This task more closely mirrors college writing assignments.
The new Essay section is designed to support high school students and teachers as they cultivate close reading, careful analysis, and clear writing. It will promote the practice of reading a wide variety of arguments and analyzing how authors do their work as writers.
The essay prompt will be shared in advance and remain consistent. Only the source material (passage) will change. The Essay will be an optional component of the SAT, although some school districts and colleges will require it.
More information about the SAT redesign is available here. Greater detail about the new exam, including sample questions for each section, will be released on April 16.