Monday, December 5, 2011

Education: The Nasty World of the SAT

The current SAT cheating scandal has brought media attention to the high pressure world of the SAT -  the place where college (or graduate and professional school) entrance exams rule the lives of students.

While many progressive universities no longer even look at these types of exams, most still consider them necessary to achieve ranking and status in the university community.

The real story is that the exams were established to keep people out of college programs -

As it turns out, the advantage these days goes to those who can afford the average $1,000 test preparation course.  Other studies show that test scores are directly tied to the student's family income.

As much as everyone complains about Affirmative Action for students of color - you could say that the SAT culture is Affirmative Action for the rich.

A last note-- SAT is big business - it won't go away as long as people make lots of money on it.


What Wikipedia says about the SAT


Cultural bias

For decades many critics have accused designers of the verbal SAT of cultural bias toward the white and wealthy. A famous example of this bias in the SAT I was the oarsmanregatta analogy question.[39] The object of the question was to find the pair of terms that have the relationship most similar to the relationship between "runner" and "marathon". The correct answer was "oarsman" and "regatta". The choice of the correct answer presupposed students' familiarity with crew, a sport popular with the wealthy, and so upon their knowledge of its structure and terminology. Fifty-three percent (53%) of white students correctly answered the question, while only 22% of black students also scored correctly.[40] However, according to Murray and Herrnstein, the black-white gap is smaller in culture-loaded questions like this one than in questions that appear to be culturally neutral.[41] Analogy questions have since been replaced by short reading passages.

Test score disparity by income

Recent research has linked high family incomes to higher mean scores. Test score data from California has shown that test-takers with family incomes of less than $20,000 a year had a mean score of 1310 while test-takers with family incomes of over $200,000 had a mean score of 1715, a difference of 405 points. The estimates of correlation of SAT scores and household income range from 0.23 to 0.4 (explaining about 5-16% of the variation).[42] One calculation has shown a 40-point average score increase for every additional $20,000 in income.[43] There are conflicting opinions on the source of this correlation. Some think it is evidence of superior education and tutoring that is accessible to the more affluent adolescents. Others consider it evidence of the heritability of intelligence and positive correlation between intelligence and income.[citation needed] Still others propose it relates to wealthier families being exposed to a broader range of cultural ideas and experiences, because of travel and other means of wider exposure, and that "Cultural Literacy" can lead to enhancement of aptitude.[44]

Test preparation

SAT preparation is a highly lucrative field.[48] Many companies and organizations offer test preparation in the form of books, classes, online courses, and tutoring.  College Board maintains that the SAT is essentially uncoachable, with tutoring courses resulting in the average increase of only about 20 points on the math section and 10 points on the verbal section.[49]


The following well respected colleges do not use the SAT
from ABC News - Oct 7, 2006

27 Top Colleges Don't Require the SAT or ACT

 Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt.*
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y.*
Bates College, Lewiston, Maine
Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Mass.
College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass.
Bard College, Annandale on Hudson, N.Y.
Connecticut College, New London, Conn.*
Union College, Schenectady, N.Y.*
Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa.
Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pa.
Pitzer College, Claremont, Calif.
Lawrence University, Appleton, Wis.
Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill.
Wheaton College, Norton, Mass.
Hobart and William Smith College, Geneva, N.Y.
Ursinus College, Collegeville, Pa.
Drew University, Madison, N.J.
Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa.
Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, Minn.
Knox College, Galesburg, Ill.
Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Ore.
Bennington College, Bennington, Vt.
Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass.
Juniata Collge, Huntingdon, Pa.
Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pa.
Providence College, Providence, R.I.

*SAT/ACT not required if applicants submit SAT II series - money: how stuff - "intended to measure a student's knowledge of a particular subject, such as English (writing or literature), history and social sciences, mathematics (various levels), sciences, and languages (Chinese, French, German, modern Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Spanish, English)   

November 9, 2011, 12:52 pm - New York Times

A New Book Argues Against the SAT

When Wake Forest University announced three years ago that it would make the SAT optional for its undergraduate applicants, among those cheering was Joseph Soares, a sociology professor at the university. Mr. Soares has channeled his enthusiasm for Wake Forest’s decision — as well as for similar policies at several hundred other colleges — into a new book, “SAT Wars,” that argues for looking beyond standardized test scores in college admissions. (The book was published last month by Teachers College Press.)

“The SAT and ACT are fundamentally discriminatory,”  Mr. Soares said in a phone interview last week.
Through his own essays in the book, as well as those of contributors that he edited, Mr. Soares seeks to build a case against the SAT. He characterizes it as a test that tends to favor white, male, upper income students with the means to prepare for it....MORE

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