SAT Scandal

It appears that over 5000 students from last October's SAT test had wrong scores -- up to 450 points off! As the dean of Admissions at Pomona College said, "It looks like they hired the people who used to do the books for Enron." Ouch. Maybe the University of California school system has the right idea by downplaying the test's importance. It's biased toward white, male America anyway. I say it's time for an educational revolution.

Comments

Shane said…
call me a euro-phallo-logo-centrist, but i'm not sure what the tilt toward white men would be. I don't think that women are innately bad at math or that black people just can't do analytic reading. Differing test scores mean anything, it is that different demographics recieve different levels of education, or support, or something of that nature, which is a very different thing than to claim that the test itself is biased.

shane
timcoe said…
From what I've read, standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT are biased in that they encourage guessing (via the timed multiple-choice format) which favors risk-seekers: a masculine trait.

Additionally, some of the questions in the laguage section (at least of the SAT-- I never took the ACT) contain idioms and colloquialisms such as 'ball-and-chain' and 'straight from the horse's mouth' that are indicative of a cultural understanding rather than an understanding of the English language, which is what the test purports to discover.
D.W. Congdon said…
I was being half-way facetious with that comment, although I don't doubt that the test is indeed biased. The prominence of suburban prep courses for the SAT is a subsidiary factor in that equation, but still a present reality.
Anonymous said…
As a former Princeton Review employee, I was taught that socio-economic status was the greatest predictor of SAT scores. Rich kids do well. Poor kids -- not so much. There are probably a dozen different factors that lead to this result (better high schools, educated parents, higher expectations, greater "academic" self-confidence, access to prep classes, greater acculturation, etc.).

The SAT certainly isn't an intelligence test and doesn't serve as a good predictor of college performance. (The LSAT on the other hand does a pretty good job of predicting the grades of first year law students.) It really only tests how good one is at taking the SAT. That said, I've generally found that kids with a 1400 are smarter than kids with a 1200 who are smarter than kids with a 1000. Smaller score differences are virtually meaningless.

Even though it is only testing test-taking aptitude, insofar as it requires intellectual problem solving aptitude under pressure, it is at least somewhat useful. The ability to think and perform under pressure is important. And even though you can "learn" how to beat the SAT, learning this skill takes hard work and a certain sort of general "problem solving skill set" and intelligence.

Regardless, I don't see any alternative to large scaled standarized tests as gatekeepers to higher education. How else can adcoms be expected to compare applicants?

-David Gunther
D.W. Congdon said…
Gunther, I agree with you. The SAT does provide a general marker by which to evaluate students on equal grounds, and in that regard, the test is indispensable. I wonder if the differences between the SAT and ACT is something that should be explored. I took both, and while the SAT is an aptitude test (how well do you think?), the ACT is a knowledge test (what do you know?). I found the latter to be a better indicator of a student's capabilities, mainly because most students never figured out the tricks that make the SAT "beatable," so to speak. Thus they look good in terms of knowledge, but poor in terms of aptitude. That's a problem in my opinion. Of course, knowledge is not sufficient as an indicator, either, since some students may be capable of a lot but happened to learn very little in school. So we're back to square one: do we need a test? one or the other? if neither, what would be a better replacement?
Anonymous said…
I don't have any experience with it, but I've been told that the ACT is a fairer, better, test that is much more connected to what students are doing and learning in high school.

-David Gunther