SAT Scores Seem Not to Predict Critical Thinking About SAT Revisions

As expected, the informed and ill-informed are weighing in on the significance of the revisions of the SAT announced last week.

Columnist Kathleen Parker weighs in, explaining, without bothering with evidence that correlations between income and SAT are the fault of bad teachers:

But if we truly want to improve everyone’s chance at eventual employment and success, the playing field needs to be plowed and seeded well before the harvest of standardized testing.

It starts with schools and teachers, and everybody knows it.

Yet today grades are inflated to assuage low student self-esteem and justify flaws in curricula and instruction. In this setting, it seems that rigorous standardized testing is more crucial than ever. As for the income differential in comparing test scores, outcomes have more to do with access to good schools and teachers than whether certain words aren’t common among lower-income students.

While she may have gotten high SAT scores herself, she seems curiously indifferent to the place of evidence in persuasive writing, as she argues, without quoting a single college official that

These tweaks are a shame inasmuch as educators lose measures that provided critical information.

While declaring the tests “easier” because they may no longer include vocabulary words like “punctilious”, she seems not to have bothered reading her own newspaper’s analysis of the changes.

While I know that columnists don’t write their own headlines, the Southern [and Black?] vernacular of the headline as published originally in the Washington Post:  The new SAT don’t care ’bout no fancy words is a nice nod to those who just know that the revisions are simply more of that Affirmative Action nonsense.   In liberal Seattle, the title was changed to New SAT Test Will Be Too Easy.

One of the educators that she might have bothered to talk to is Leon Botstein, president of Bard College.  Bard is one of many selective colleges that is “SAT optional” because admissions officers in these schools found no value to the information that the SAT provides, a position supported by research showing little predictive value in SAT scores  (news that Parker’s Washington Post covered in a business column about declining market shares for the College Board.  While she may have a “rich vocabulary” as measured by her SAT scores, she seems curiously lacking in research, or even Googling skills).

In a Time magazine column, Botstein writes:

The blunt fact is that the SAT has never been a good predictor of academic achievement in college. High school grades adjusted to account for the curriculum and academic programs in the high school from which a student graduates are. The essential mechanism of the SAT, the multiple choice test question, is a bizarre relic of long outdated twentieth century social scientific assumptions and strategies. As every adult recognizes, knowing something or how to do something in real life is never defined by being able to choose a “right” answer from a set of possible answers (some of them intentionally misleading) put forward by faceless test designers who are rarely eminent experts. No scientist, engineer, writer, psychologist, artist, or physician—and certainly no scholar, and therefore no serious university faculty member—pursues his or her vocation by getting right answers from a set of prescribed alternatives that trivialize complexity and ambiguity.

These revisions in the SAT were spurred by the College Board’s drop in market shares because excellent, rigorous schools dropped the SAT as a requirement because they could not demonstrate that the tests predicted success in college.  Any journalist can readily find that information.

To pretend that the revisions are instead about dumbing down college admissions is disingenuous at best, classist and racist at worst.

Unlike the words in the vocabulary section of the SAT, “classist” and “racist” are each only two syllable words, because straightforward language is unlikely to obscure what is actually being said.

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