Since the inception of the SAT in 1926, the admission world has debated (1976, 2001, 2008, 2015, 2018, 2019) the impact of and validity of the SAT (and later the ACT, CLT, CCTST, etc) on the pool of applicants and enrolled students at a university. Recently, more and more colleges have been asking themselves should they diminish the role of testing in their admission process and declare a test optional admissions policy. This debate has heated up recently with the release of Measuring Success: Testing, Grades, and the Future of College Admissions and the announcement of the University of Chicago’s test optional policy causing many institutions to look inward at their use of test scores. However, the question of whether colleges and universities should stop using the SAT and ACT might just be the wrong question. It’s certainly the wrong question at a particular set of schools. While there are some schools where the additional predictive information (generally .02 to .1) from tests lends support to difficult admissions decisions, I think there are as many institutions that should be test optional but are holding on to the tests. In requiring these tests are these schools doing more harm than good to themselves? By holding on to these tests are these schools abdicating their duties to fairly evaluate all candidates and relinquishing that authority to the SAT and ACT?
When the NY Times published its scathing exposé of T. M. Landry College Preparatory (“Louisiana School Made Headlines for Sending Black Kids to Elite Colleges. Here’s The Reality”) it caused an uproar in the educational community as educators, admissions professionals, and parents were shocked to learn that behind the inspirational videos was a school in trouble. Many were stunned as revelations painted a picture of a school engaging in abusive discipline practices more reminiscent of the 1940s than the 2000s. These practices alone give adequate reason for outrage and when compounded by the evidence of significant educational abuses and fraud makes this an important story for everyone in the educational community.
As anyone who works with low income, first generation or underrepresented students could tell you, the vast majority of these students lack not only the funds to compete with the 1% but also the “social capital” that greases the wheels of higher education access. Networks of chatty parents sharing new discoveries about demonstrated interest, hooks, gap years, PPY, ED/EDII/EA/EAII/REA, supplemental essays, recommended (not really) tests, super-scoring, super-duper-scoring, test optional/flexible, and a host of other insider secrets help the most informed more easily navigate an increasingly complex system.
Since the 1980s, Educational Testing Service (ETS), which dominated educational admission testing from 1940 – 1980, has been hemorrhaging product lines. In its heyday (SAT word) ETS was the Sauron to US education’s Middle Earth, providing admissions tests for the vast majority of professional certification programs and higher ed admissions. Their services ranged from teacher certification exams to the SAT, GRE, GMAT, MCAT, and LSAT. In the last decade or so, ETS business strategy has changed and the organization has begun to aggressively market their most popular remaining assessment product, the Graduate Record Exam (commonly known by its initialism – GRE), as “the One Test to Assess Them All.” This strategic market grab, while an interesting business strategy, raises significant questions about all admission tests. Specifically, the expansion of the GRE into fields beyond its design should force responsible test users to reevaluate long-held assumptions about what information is being gained by requiring the GRE (and all its brethren) and at what cost.
After announcing changes in September 2016 and then teasing us with 10 sample questions and an FAQ in January 2017, the DOE finally released two full sample tests in May of 2017. The sample tests were included in the 2017 – 2018 Specialized High School Handbook and I spent the month of June perusing, categorizing, and quantifying the questions contained therein. With that work done (well it was finished in June but I didn’t get motivated to blog until this morning .. thanks Stacey H), I’m here to share all that I know about the changes to the SHSAT for 2017.
As the new school year begins, I am anxiously awaiting (read: dreading) the forthcoming SAT and ACT annual reports and with them the inevitable exaggerations, hand-wringings, misinterpretations, and statistical paralogisms that will follow. The College Board’s Total Group Reports and ACT’s Condition of College and Career Readiness Reports (or Profile Reports) will not only spark the annual “sky-is-falling because district scores have dropped .005 points” responses but will also likely lead to an uptick in the “SAT/ACT scores show students not ready to succeed in college, career, life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness.”
I’ve already bellowed into the void about the sky-is-fallingness of it all, so this time my windmill is the College and Career “Readiness” Benchmarks. More specifically, the lazy language surrounding and incomplete interpretation of those benchmarks that may be doing harm to the most vulnerable students in our schools. If you think I might be being a bit hyperbolic consider this particularly egregious example of “journalism” (which I will not link to):
For the last few years, the NYC DOE has been under pressure to address the demographic imbalances at the Specialized High Schools. While considered some of the city’s (and even the nation’s) top schools, these schools have not reflected the diversity and demographics of the city as a whole in decades. The De Blasio administration took steps to increase the diversity of these schools and signaled that they would actually attempt to address the fact that only 11% of specialized schools are black or hispanic while approximately 70% of other city schools are. The administration took another step later in the fall when it paved the way for changes to the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT) , the sole means of entry to the Specialized High Schools.
This is a draft.. I never finished it.. but i’m tired of working on it so it goes up as is.
This past fall NYC DOE officially announced their participation in College Board’s SAT School Day program. This program had been quietly piloted in 40 schools in March of 2015, is being expanded to 90ish schools in spring of 2016, until it finally encompasses all of the approximately 496 NYC public high schools in 2017. Naturally, being the eduprenerd (educator + entrepreneur + nerd) and test prep wonk that I am, this rekindled my interest in the SAT School Day Program and sparked the following analysis of its implications, benefits, and drawbacks.