Perverting the SAT
- Wednesday, July 10, 2002
The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) has been used by colleges for decades to predict the success of students in college. Colleges have found SATs to be an effective tool in measuring college aptitude, that is, the ability to do college work. Since colleges are interested in admitting those students who will be successful in post-secondary work, the SAT has been one of the most widely used college aptitude tests in the nation.
An aptitude test is different from an achievement test. An achievement test looks at what a student has accomplished. An aptitude test tries to predict what a student will accomplish, that is, graduate successfully from college. An achievement test looks at the past. An aptitude test looks at the future.
Last month the Trustees of the College Board for the SAT voted to change the SAT from an aptitude test to an achievement test ("College Board to Vote on Overhauling SAT I, Adding Writing Section," Minneapolis Star Tribune). The changes are described as "the most significant overhaul in the 76-year history of the nation's most widely used such test." With these changes, the SAT will be redefined as something entirely different from what it has been.
David Jacob, spokesman for the College Board, the nonprofit higher education association that owns the SAT, said:
"The overall objective is to align the test more closely with what is taught in school today..."
In other words, the SAT will now test a student's achievement in K-12 school. That is, it will measure how well the student has absorbed the curriculum the school system has provided.
The SAT Board is also dropping the entire SAT analogies section of the test because of criticism that word analogies "are not taught in school." The word analogies are being dropped because they measure aptitude, not achievement.
Why would the SAT, which has been highly accurate as a college aptitude test, entirely redefine itself?
The answer can be found by looking at the new federal curriculum, the "national standards" that all students in public K-12 schools must now, by federal law, know and be able to do." (See our analysis of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation and its curricular mandates.)
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