New SATs

Education, Race

David Goldenberg, writing in the online magazine Gelf, takes the New” SATs to task. Most disturbing is the effect that the changes to the test are likely to have on minorities. Discussing the removal of verbal analogies and quantitative comparisons from the test, David writes:

Ironically, the two sections that were eliminated were the same two in which minorities consistently overperformed, according to research done by Jay Rosner, the Executive Director of the Princeton Review Foundation, a non-profit branch of the testing company that, among other things, serves as an advocate for low-income and minority students. By analyzing scores from hundreds of thousands of students, Rosner has shown that both the quantitative comparisons and the analogies sections were relatively advantageous to black students, meaning that the score gap between blacks and whites was significantly lower in those sections.

Equally bad is the new mandatory writing section, which is really just a repackaged version of the essay section from what was known as the SAT II. Another SAT tutor, Pat Welsh, writing in the Washington Post, sites a report [PDF] by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing which states that

The SAT II Writing” Test was never very popular. Fewer than 100 colleges in the nation required it, in part because it was a weak predictor of college grades, especially for African Americans and Latinos.

Especially troubling for students from underprivileged backgrounds is the fact that coaching can have a big impact on performance on the writing section. As David writes:

But the new writing section (read: a barely modified old writing SAT II) is perhaps the most coachable of any part of any SAT, including all of the SAT II subject tests. (Another ICR survey found that students who received Princeton Review tutoring on their Writing SAT II raised their scores an average of 137 points. Comparable preparation on other SAT II subject tests yielded an increase of around 80 points).

So the new, improved, SAT is really just more of the same, if not worse.

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