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?
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):
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.
On Tuesday April 19th, I woke to find the following press release in my inbox.
Las Vegas, NV (April 18th, 2016) – ACT, (the other test maker) has decided to partner with Kaplan Test Prep to offer free standardized test prep, in a new effort to emphasize the ineffectuality of standardized tests. This new state of the art online testing program will be at least partially live (Take that KHAN ACADEMY with your pre-recorded doodles). Though it’s not entirely free to all students, Kaplan promises to provide lots of free test prep to low-income students to help dial down the reality that it is a for-profit company making bank on this new partnership. With this new program, Kaplan promises to utilize the same top-notch online portal used for classes at Kaplan University. (Ranked 137th Best Online College and ranked equally with the notable Oral Roberts University.)
This new program entitled: Kaplan Online Program Outreach for Underserved Tutorials (or simply KOPOUT) features lessons from seasoned Master Ninjas who no longer need silly things like textbooks to cover the material that isn’t showing up in high school this year.
“We know that helping kids help understand the help they need should not go unhelped,” says ACT COO, Kyle Ren. “After all, we think it’s beneficial to work with test prep companies, as they’ve made it their business to recognize the flaws we’ve created. It’s like, you know when like the Terminator came back and he was like, I’m not here to kill you like I’m here to help save your kid from the shiny new guy who wants to kill you. And he can like mold himself into anything at all, and that’s like, useful and stuff. So we’ve got the Terminator on our side. Or are we the Terminator? I don’t know. I guess one of us is the Terminator.”
KOPOUT also includes the following features:
- An online platform with prerecorded lessons over the backdrop of a 1980’s yearbook setting.
- Sciencey science for the Science section discussing the charts and graphs and other things ACT takes for college level Science.
- Real ACT questions which are totally different from the ones you’d find in the book they’re about to publish for more money.
- A social network of like-minded kids using the service as an excuse for learning instead of snap chatting nasty comments to their ex-girlfriend.
Recently, I was invited by a small group of mothers to a home to discuss the college admissions process and standardized testing. These moms are well to do and college educated. They are also mostly African-American. Among the many questions and topics of discussion were the questions listed below. I’m just going to post them without commentary and allow you to draw from it what you will.
-How much do test scores really matter to colleges and universities?
-How should I prepare my child for the college admissions tests?
-In general, what are some strategies and support that position students of color for test taking success?
– Do students of color spend as much time preparing for standardized tests?
– Do you perceive students of color to feel as confident about taking the tests? Will the new SAT be helpful to test results in general?