SAT Reboot 2016: “Nonsense It All Is”

In the often cited scene near the end of Notting Hill when Anna Scott stands in William Thacker’s shabby book store and asks him to love her, few are likely to recall a key point made by Anna.

But let’s imagine for a moment that instead of trying to save her relationship with William, Anna returns to the store to talk to him about the plan to reboot the SAT in 2016, and instead of the “I’m just a girl” bit, we focus on this from Anna:

“No, it’s all nonsense, believe me.  I had no idea how much nonsense it was, but nonsense it all is.”

And there you have it, neatly dressed in Hollywood garb, but essentially how we must all respond to the David Coleman-led charge to merge the Common Core (the newest education scam) with the SAT (possibly the oldest and longest running education scam).

Not long ago, I reasserted about the SAT: What is the SAT Good For? Absolutely Nothing, noting in part:

  • The College Board itself cautions against using the SAT for any comparative purposes: “Educators, the media and others should…not rank or rate teachers, educational institutions, districts or states solely on the basis of aggregate scores derived from tests that are intended primarily as a measure of individual students.” Average SAT scores for any state reflect the affluence of the test takers and the relative percentage of test takes—but certainly not the quality of the schools or the teachers.
  • The College Board’s own research repeatedly confirms that SAT scores are less predictive of freshman college success than GPA. (See Table 5, p. 5)
  • SAT scores historically and currently are most strongly correlated with parental income and level of education for parents. Select any year from the archived data, and these facts are confirmed. In short, the SAT is a metric that confirms privilege more so than identifying academic achievement or academic readiness for college (except in which ways those are inextricably tied to privilege).

I cannot fathom any reason to believe this 2016 reboot will create changes to draw a different conclusion. In fact, this reboot is just another publicity move by the College Board/SAT that falls in line with recent history: the mid-1990s re-centering (scores were dropping due to the testing pool changing and thus the SAT was getting bad press), the expansion in 2005 (the University of California caused a stir by calling for opting out of the SAT and thus the SAT was getting bad press), and now the 2016 reboot (the ACT surpassed the SAT in number of students taking the exam and thus the SAT was getting bad press).

There simply has never been and will never be a way to justify the time and expense needed to implement single-sitting standardized tests in pursuit of doing something for which we already have rich, credible, and free data (GPA) to guide decisions about students entering higher education.

The relentless faith in the SAT (and ACT) in the U.S. is trapped inside a misguided belief in objectivity—even though standardized tests have been shown repeatedly to perpetuate biases related to class, race, and gender.

This is the third major time the SAT has opened the door to reconsidering the test. The first two times, we mostly just walked in and sat right back at the table that was not really different at all except for the table cloth.

This third time, now that the SAT has opened the door again, we must kick it out, and ask Coleman and company to take the Common Core with them.

The 2016 reboot of the SAT is nonsense, “it’s all nonsense, believe me.”

And just as William did (briefly) when Anna came calling once again, we must take a stand and tell the College Board: “Can I just say no to your kind request?”

Please considering the following as well:

“New” SAT Plan Fails to Address Exam’s Major Flaws

FairTest Questions the College Board on Plans for “New” SAT

The key problem the SAT changes won’t fix

At The OnionChanges To The SAT

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GPA trumps SAT

The SAT has persistently been more strongly correlated with students’ out-of-school factors (parental income and parental level of education, notably) than with the test’s primary purpose: predicting college success.

GPA has historically been marginalized by claims of “grade inflation” for decades, yet GPA remains a more powerful predictor of student college success than the SAT.

So why has the SAT remained a powerful tool for determining college entrance, scholarships, and athletic eligibility?

The SAT benefits the affluent and the privileged while “as an admissions criterion, HSGPA has less adverse impact than standardized tests on disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students” (Geiser & Santelices, 2007).

It is past time to debate revising the SAT, and time to stop allowing the SAT to gate-keep access to college, scholarships, and athletic participation.

Geiser, S., & Santelices, M. V. (2007). Validity of high-school grades in predicting student success beyond the freshman year: High-school record vs. standardized tests as indicators of four-year college outcomes. Research & Occasional Paper Series: CSHE.6.07. University of California, Berkeley: Center for studies in Higher Education. Retrieved from http://cshe.berkeley.edu/publications/docs/ROPS.GEISER._SAT_6.12.07.pdf

ABSTRACT

High-school grades are often viewed as an unreliable criterion for college admissions, owing to differences in grading standards across high schools, while standardized tests are seen as methodologically rigorous, providing a more uniform and valid yardstick for assessing student ability and achievement. The present study challenges that conventional view. The study finds that high-school grade point average (HSGPA) is consistently the best predictor not only of freshman grades in college, the outcome indicator most often employed in predictive-validity studies, but of four-year college outcomes as well. A previous study, UC and the SAT (Geiser with Studley, 2003),demonstrated that HSGPA in college-preparatory courses was the best predictor of freshman grades for a sample of almost 80,000 students admitted to the University of California. Because freshman grades provide only a short-term indicator of college performance, the present study tracked four-year college outcomes, including cumulative college grades and graduation, for the same sample in order to examine the relative contribution of high-school record and standardized tests in predicting longer-term college performance. Key findings are: (1) HSGPA is consistently the strongest predictor of four-year college outcomes for all academic disciplines, campuses and freshman cohorts in the UC sample; (2) surprisingly, the predictive weight associated with HSGPA increases after the freshman year, accounting for a greater proportion of variance in cumulative fourth-year than first-year college grades; and (3) as an admissions criterion, HSGPA has less adverse impact than standardized tests on disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of these findings for admissions policy and argues for greater emphasis on the high-school record, and a corresponding de-emphasis on standardized tests, in college admissions.