Do ACT and SAT tests matter?

Writing in the New York Times, op-ed writer Brent Staples raised questions about the value of the ACT and SAT college entrance exams:

Imagine yourself an admissions director of a status-seeking college that wants desperately to move up in the rankings. With next year’s freshman class nearly filled, you are choosing between two applicants. The first has very high SAT scores, but little else to recommend him. The second is an aspiring doctor who tests poorly but graduated near the top of his high school class while volunteering as an emergency medical technician in his rural county.

This applicant has the kind of background that higher education has always claimed to covet. But the pressures that are driving colleges — and the country as a whole — to give college entry exams more weight than they were ever intended to have would clearly work against him. Those same pressures are distorting the admissions process, corrupting education generally and slanting the field toward students whose families can afford test preparation classes.

Consider the admissions director at our hypothetical college. He knows that college ranking systems take SAT’s and ACT’s into account. He knows that bond-rating companies look at the same scores when judging a college’s credit worthiness. And in lean times like these, he would be especially eager for a share of the so-called merit scholarship money that state legislators give students who test well.

The Blogland has questioned the PACT test and questioned it often, but it wasn't just that one test we questioned. We also questioned the approach to education in which "teaching the test" has become more important than mastery of skills and broad subject material. Palmetto State students are more than a set of numbers and statistics and deserve to be assessed in a broader set of measures which consider the fuller scope of what it is to be a well-educated citizen.

Staples warned against the potential dangers of over-reliance upon standardized testing in assessing the ability and performance of students. When he points out that "inserting exams that weren’t designed for this purpose, the states have unintentionally encouraged students to believe that course work matters less than gaming the test that gets them into college", this is a point of concern that we have about education policy here in Soth Carolina.decided.

5 Response to "Do ACT and SAT tests matter?"

  1. west_rhino 15/1/09 10:20
    Well Earl, once upon a time, long, long ago, American Mensa, Ltd. would accept SAT test scores to qualify form membership. Scores from that test, given in that long past age I understand are still usable for qualifying, though the test given after that period, we're told, do not reflect the test taker's intelligence.

    To the PACT test, I do take issue with skule diskrikts making efforts to teach the tests rather than the skills needed by students with the express pose of re-electing skule bored members and keeping sooperintendents jobs...

    As with the perversion of "No Child Left Behind" by the foxes guarding the henhouses, I suspect we're probably in accord with your cousin, John Graham Altman, III.
  2. snow bound an cold bound heading further north soon mg 15/1/09 22:09
    obama will straighten it out
  3. west_rhino 16/1/09 09:01
    moye, you're being too optimistic
  4. Anonymous 16/1/09 15:19
    You make good points but for me the main issue is with how SAT & ACT scores are reported by state (you know, another area where SC ranks so lowly)... Every state gets to decide what group of SAT scores they report...some just report their state's students that are accepted by their state's colleges & universities...while SC reports EVERY SINGLE SAT TAKEN....basically we're not comparing apples for apples...that should be a federal mandate: uniformity of reporting!
  5. Earl Capps 16/1/09 15:24
    1519 - I will agree with you there. It's not always a fair assessment of our students for purposes of comparison. Nor is it the end all, be all of determining what kind of college student one will be.

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