Should You Take the SAT/ACT or Not?

For parents of 10th, 11th and 12th graders, the question of testing looms large (especially this fall as the test optional movement has really taken hold), so let me try to help you out and give you the lowdown to help you make decisions. I’m not going to do a detailed discussion of testing policy, overuse, misuse, or the like (that’s my day job and this is my side gig), rather I want parents to come away with the tools to make the 3 binary testing decisions on the road to college application:

  1. to prep for tests or not to prep
  2. to test or not to test
  3. to submit scores or not to submit

Also I might update this post like I do my College Admissions Resources post, so check back periodically.

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College Essay Trauma Porn

My sons make me hopeful about the future. My sons impress me with what they know and can do. My sons often surprise me. But most often my sons amuse me. Today, I share one of the amusements and surprises. My sons (Enid-Michele, my internet daughter wasn’t part of this so that’s why I’m not mentioning her.) have apparently been paying attention to pop culture and to to my work. These boys, in 7th and 9th grades when this started, have been workshopping lines they claim are going into their college essays. They shared with me the beginnings of their joint effort: 

Growing up in the poorest borough of NYC, raised by a mother fighting addiction, and a father who couldn’t get a job.

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Standardized Testing: The Temporal Scan of Education

As the pandemic rages and the issue of testing is discussed in a medical context, I’ve found myself increasingly noticing the parallels between the the ways in which America has discussed and politicized Covid testing and the way in which America has politicized and discussed educational testing. These parallels between medical and educational testing have me wondering if it’s a human or American failing that leads to the being so easily seduced by as Alfred Binet, father of IQ testing, put it “a simple, brutal number, which can have only a deceptive precision.

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Don’t Believe the Hype

Brigham tried to warn you in 1936. PE tried to warn you in 1988. Bigham tried to warn you repeatedly since 1990.

But, unfortunately, since the marketing machine of the testing agencies got their grips into the Stanvard Universities the narrative of the SAT providing access has taken root in the American psyche and far too many have bought into the hype about what standardized testing does and doesn’t do. Specifically about what it does and doesn’t do for Black and Hispanic people as a group.

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College, Career, and Cremation Benchmarks

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.”

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Are Changes Coming to College Admissions?

We know it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s been less than 6 months since the Justice Department announced the indictments resulting from Operation Varsity Blues, so it’s no surprise that few universities have announced any substantial policy changes in their admissions procedures. If most big institutions move slowly, universities look at them and wonder, “What’s the big rush there?”  There are still committees to be convened in order to create sub-committees that can issue memos that can be circulated in order to be approved as official reports by committees who can then move items forward for approval by the faculty and/or Board of Trustees. In other words, don’t expect big changes in how colleges admit students anytime soon.

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Temperature is to Testing as ….

Recently Marten Roorda, CEO of ACT reminded us that throwing away the thermometer won’t get rid of a fever and he’s 100% right. Of course, no doctor in the world thinks that tossing the thermometer will cure an identified ailment. Mr. Roorda’s analogy in defense of the ACT (and attacking the test optional movement) was really subtle and I think many will miss all the ways in which the analogy works. Since I’m a fan of a good analogy (except when they are put on a test) I’m going to help make sure everyone understands why this is an amazing analogy.

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Why Aren’t More Colleges Test Optional?

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.

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