Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Are the SATs Fair?

Perhaps you have heard by now that a new national report has been released urging colleges to reduce or even eliminate SATs scores as part of the application process. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) is taking a leadership position in asking colleges to reconsider the weight given to the SATs. One concern that NACAC has raised is the enormous media attention the tests receive despite the fact that it has been documented that the tests are not necessarily the best predictor of a student’s success in college. Yet, all the media hype puts undue pressure on high school students, their parents, and guidance counselors, while also helping to increase the profits of companies that market themselves as coaching experts for the tests.

The NACAC, based on an analysis of students’ success in college, advocates for the use of high school achievement as well as enrollment in college preparatory and honors courses as a far better predictor of student outcomes in college. Concern has also been raised about testing bias as well as the advantage that wealthier students who can afford coaching have. If the test does not equalize across all economic strata, some question its validity and whether using it for admission is a discriminatory practice. In studies looking at student performance on the SAT and college success, institutions have found a weak correlation. Hamilton College which makes submission of scores optional has found that students who elect not to submit scores outperform those who do. Some schools report an increase in applicants from top scholars after electing to make SATs scores optional. Worcester Polytechnic Institute is one such school.

Weigh in on the issue. What is your opinion? Should the SAT be dropped from the admissions process?

Information from “Dramatic Challenge to SAT and ACT,” Inside Higher Education, 9/22/08.< http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/09/22/testing> Additional Information available from “College Panel Calls for Less Focus on SAT, The New York Times, 9/22/08. < http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/22/education/22admissions.html?th&emc=th
Image: keystocollege.blogspot.com


Bob said...

I find it interesting now that education is data driven (NCLB and SRBI/RTI) that there are some who want to remove valuable longitudinal data tools such as the SAT and ACT. After reading this article and those linked to it, I only have one question. Where is the evidence that the SAT and ACT are not good predictors of student success at the collegiate level? As a trained scientist I do not accept changes like this lightly. All of these articles make broad sweeping generalizations without empirical data, showing an undefined bias is present. But, as educators we cannot ignore that many students struggle or do not survive academically at the university level. Do I believe that other factors should be looked at when evaluating a student for admission; yes. And it is clear that economic factors influence student success. Though I do not remember the date of its implementation the State of Texas has put in to affect a program that automatically gives state university slot to any student that finishes in the top 10% of their high school class, regardless of the GPA. The issue that has been encountered is that students with better SAT and ACT scores are no longer getting into the schools that they traditionally did. I am forced to wonder, are the students with lower GPA’s as successful? And how do their SAT and ACT results stack up against their higher GPA peers?

Caitlin said...

I don't think that SAT testing gives a fair picture of a persons ability, and even more so, does not give an indicator of how a person will perform in college. People who do well on the SAT could do poorly in college, just as easily as someone who did poorly on the SAT could do really well at the collegiate level. I think that aptitude for university level schooling has to be based more on just test scores and grades. To rely to heavily on these things discounts a student's ability to learn and grow in a new enviroment.

Meggan said...

This is a difficult subject and I hear about it every year I teach. Since I teach mostly 12th graders I am constantly aware of the enormous pressure they are under. I do believe that SAT scores somewhat show how a student will perform. I also believe there is a gap in the scores though when looking across different social and economic backgrounds. A parent's education has a lot to do with it as well. If a child's parent(s) has never been to anything past 8th grade or high school, they will not know the importance of college or SAT's; therefore, the child will only get help and reinforcement in school. I could go on and on about this topic, but I feel that there are many more factors to consider other than just if they are an A/B/C student.

Kate said...

I know this has been an ongoing issue even while I was applying to colleges back in high school. While I do believe that there must be some kind of standardized assessment used by colleges, I believe there should not be so much emphasis placed on this one test. Students could have a bad day or may be excellent students, but not good test takers. College admissions should focus on grades, extracurricular activity involvement, and then SAT scores. I found it very interesting to read that Hamilton College decided to have submitting the SAT as optional and found that they received applications from more students at the top of their class and more minority students. Also, 40% of students at Hamilton who did not submit SAT scores performed slightly better at Hamilton in their four years there. I think there is something to be said for making SAT submission optional. Education needs to break away from the "one size fits all model" even at the college level.

Abel said...

I believe that education has to be measured in our school system. Setting real goals that represent substantial achievements by students is important in our society. I understand that districts need to measure their schools in order to have a real picture of how much students are learning and in what areas students struggling. On the other hand, I do not believe that imposing standardized tests would be the best way to improve our students’ academics. Of course, standards ensure a more equitable learning experience for students across the nation. However, we know that not all students have equitable access to educational resources.

Bill C said...

Applying for college is like applying for a job. I can’t believe the amount of documentation, background checks and other hoops that are required to receive a teaching certification. That being said, without this documentation, how is an employer to decide which candidate to choose? This does not necessarily mean that the candidate chosen will last, just as a there is no guarantee a college bound student will last in college. With all the talk about differentiation and RTI geared at reaching the learner at their levels of skill and comprehension, the education system tasked with assessing student development needs to be constantly finding new and innovative ways to evaluate students. This should also require higher education institutions to consider new forms of criteria to choose its applicants. SAT’s have always supplied educators with valuable insight into a student’s academic ability. Totally dismissing this form of assessment would be a mistake. However, that does not mean that extracurricular activities, community involvement, and good academic standing should be excluded when deciding if a student is fit to participate in a higher education program. Status quo is not acceptable in any thriving industry. Nor should it be acceptable for our children’s education. Keep the things that work and build upon them. Just like a lesson plan.

Lourdes said...

I definetely agree with dropping the SATs from the college admision process. I agree with the fact that some students cannot afford tutoring to help them prepare for the SATs therefore don't do as well as the ones who can afford to pay for tutoring. It is also important to consider that students who receive services such as SPED/ELL in schools might not performed as well in these tests as any regular education student. These student cannot suffer the consequences for having disabilities and/or not being proficient in the language.

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