There’s a good New York Times article by Todd Balf entitled The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul (hat tip Chris Wiggins).
In it is described the story of the new College Board President David Coleman, and how he decided to deal with the biggest problem with the SAT: namely, that it was pretty easy to prepare for the test, and the result was that richer kids did better, having more resources – both time and money – to prepare.
Here’s a visual from another NY Times blog on the issue:
Here’s my summary of the story.
At this point the SAT serves mainly to sort people by income. It’s no longer an appropriate way to gauge “IQ” as it was supposed to be when it was invented. Not to mention that colleges themselves have been playing a crazy game with respect to gaming the US News & World Reports college ranking model via their SAT scores. So it’s one feedback loop feeding into another.
How can we deal with this? One way is to stop using it. The article describes some colleges that have made SAT scores optional. They have not suffered, and they have more diversity.
But since the College Board makes their livelihood by testing people, they were never going to just shut down. Instead they’ve decided to explicitly make the SAT about content knowledge that they think high school students should know to signal college readiness.
And that’s good, but of course one can still prepare for that test. And since they’re acknowledging that now, they’re trying to set up the prep to make it more accessible, possibly even “free”.
But here’s the thing, it’s still online, and it still involves lots of time and attention, which still saps resources. I predict we will still see incredible efforts towards gaming this new model, and it will still break down by income, although possibly not quite as much, and possibly we will be training our kids to get good at slightly more relevant stuff.
I would love to see more colleges step outside the standardized testing field altogether.