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Cal Schools May Nix SAT In Admissions Process 312

Posted by timothy
from the news-for-the-college-bound-nerd dept.
An unnamed correspondent writes: "The University of California school systems is considering to stop using SAT scores in college admissions. Story at Yahoo." The usual double-edged sword here: the SATs, ACTs and similar tests may be close to worthless, but other factors (like how GPAs [?] are calculated and weighted) varies wildly from school to school. (What might a GPA of 3.9 at Stuyvesant High be worth elsewhere, for instance?)
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Cal Schools May Nix SAT In Admissions Process

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  • you could inflate the persons score but put a star beside their name indicating that the person has an inflated score because they have some learning disability.

    i really think our society is too worried about making people feel good about themselves. do you really want the person with narcolepsy driving the bus so the bus company can say they are an equal opp. employer? plus they didnt want the guy to feel bad.

    use LaTeX? want an online reference manager that
  • I noticed it too when I graduated... my class was always considered to be the best to have ever gone through the school system. It showed in the numbers too... a couple of people at my school got 1600 on the SATI. But the classes that came up after us were horrible... one of them set the building on fire and others picked fights with a number of seniors.

    As to seniors failing basic skills... that's a failure of the school system and the parents and I would say society at large... I mean, look at how little basic skills are emphasized in our culture! Now, it is more important that students feel good, enjoy school, and think differently... sure, that stuff is important, once you get the basics out of the way... reading, writing, and 'rithemtic still form the core of society's knowledge, however painful it was to learn it. I hated school but I accepted that it was something I needed to go through to succeed in life. It gave me a foundation from which I could do things that I actually enjoy... like program computers and write nice little essays like this. :-)
  • I'm going to give you all my particular case.
    I have a pair of rarish learning disabilities. One is called Dispraxia, the other is called Disgraphia. When combined, they make it utterly difficult to concentrate on hand-written material (due mostly, but not entirely to illegibility). I was allowed to dictate my SAT exams to a teacher. The time I took the SAT by myself, I had issues with the test. Noew that I'm at college, I never have to hand write anything ---everything is on a computer. So, why should I be penilized for a condition that is not going to affect my college performance?
  • oops. should be "their" not "there"
  • Yeah, but the whole idea of studying for a single test in order to get into college is wrong. If the SAT were a true aptitude test, like the LSAT (law school test), in the vein of an IQ test, it could accurately measure students abilities. Colleges, however, prefer to know how much students have learned, so they use an achievement test like the SAT. The UofC prez is right when he says that this leads to inequity. Schools that teach to the SAT will put more kids in college - and colleges don't want kids who can show how rain:drop as snow:flake - they want well-rounded people. Your point on studying is a good one, but really, studying is way overrated. Personally, I took the SAT and ACT both once, without studying. Though I did pretty well, I probably could have gotten a perfect math score on the SAT and a 35+ on the ACT had a studied a bit (as it was, I came pretty close). I did look at some ACT questions to see what it was like, but had I taken a single practice test I would have done way better. I had no idea that the test is based more on speed than knowledge, but I found out in a hurry. If I were a college, I'd rather give myself a scholarship than the kid who took an SAT prep class and studied day upon day learning all of the previously used SAT words in lieu of more important things like hobbies, friends, work, etc. Of course, I'm a little bit biased in that respect :) - Ideally, I'd prefer that colleges looked at how many times someone took a test and weighted their scores down using some formula based on average score improvement, but potential enrollees seem to prefer colleges that take the highest score for each section, regardless of the amount of test opportunities, so that's what the colleges do.
  • The trend in high schools and lower is to increase
    standardized tests in order to hold them more
    accountable. This drive is being led by
    conservative voters.

    Some colleges such Berkeley are going the opposite
    way. Liberal administrators accuse testing of
    discriminating against the disadvantaged.
  • (What might a GPA of 3.9 at Stuyvesant High be worth elsewhere, for instance?)

    Stuyvesant is one of the top public high schools (if not THE top) in the country. A 3.9 at Stuyvesant would shows that you are an excellent student. A better statement would have been, What is a GPA of 2.1 at Stuyvesant worth elsewhere? or What is a GPA of 3.9 at Southampton High school worth at Stuyvesant?

    __________________________________________________ ___

  • Finally, one of the states is doing something right. These tests are worth absolutely nothing as far as real knowledge. Some background:

    My parents were very enthusiastic about me getting good grades, and so they naturally wanted me to do well on the SAT. As such, I took it once in 7th grade for the Midwest Talent Search(1160), once in 9th grade(1350) and once in my junior year(1590). I missed the sum total of one math question the final time.

    Now, what changed between those years? It certainly wasn't preparation in school -- our school had none of the "SAT prep" nonsense that others seem. What changed was the fact that the final time I actually bought one of the stupid SAT prep books and used it. Wow. That's a real proof of intelligence -- being able to drop $25 on a book and get a good score because of it.

    However, good numbers don't mean much in the college application process today. I had a 4.0 in AP classes, got the abovementioned score on the SAT, and a 34 on the ACT,plus 700+ scores on my SAT IIs, and MIT and Caltech both turned me down. This was probably because my essays were really bad, and I didn't have enough research credentials, but the point remains -- numbers are NOT everything.

    However, I'm very happy where I ended up, so I think it's for the better that we're seeing the end of a very artificial system that causes needless stress and redirects attention from those areas which really are crucial(learning in school).

    PS -- for the trolls talking about racially-biased application processes. Yes, I am a white male. Do I think this affected my chances of acceptance at schools? No -- mainly because they're not looking for statistics, they're looking for good people. Talk to the applications selectors at a college some time. It might teach you a thing or two about the process.

  • Have you ever heard of the Chitlin's Test? It was an intelligence test designed for black culture, using questions and scenarios which were more likely to be familiar to them. On that test, blacks tended to outscore whites.

    Was that test racist? Or are the usual tests, written by members of the majority culture, racist? Is it even possible to write an intelligence test which does not favor some parts of society over others?

    Anybody who is interested in this subject should read Stephen Jay Gould's Mismeasure of Man [wordsworth.com].

  • What do you think of the exams for grad school?
    I'm not American so I didn't take the SAT. However, in my undergrad university we had to take a similar test to be admitted. I assume is similar to the SAT 'cause I've seen the questions.
    Now, what about the GRE? The general GRE test is just a "harder" version of the SAT and similar exams. That's one of those things where good native English speakers can get a 700 and barely-understandable-one-syllable-speaking Orientals can get an 800. (verbal part). Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against orientals, it just shows how the different cultures take different approaches. (Somebody from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, etc please correct me if I'm wrong). They study for this verbal part (the hardest for them) for months on end.
    I for one, got a 500 or so, but I can speak, write, read and understand better than most of them. (No, english is not my native language).
    Does this show that the effort that they put into studying english is their norm in studying? Frankly, I couldn't say, but I've seen them study/work a lot.
    Let's move on and consider the GRE advanced test, or subject. This test is specific to one area. I only know about the Computer Science test. Even though it was only on CS, it did try to cover "all" of it, or at least, all the basics. This, in my opinion, is definitely a good test in evaluating how much you know about CS. (If you haven't taken or seen the test go and get yourself a practice exam and see how 3l33t you really are. :-).
    The question is, does the fact that you know a lot about CS prove that you're going to be a good student? I don't think so, but I can say that normally, if you are a good student in CS, you'll (is this obvious or not?) know a lot about CS.
    Anybody with GRE tales, experiences or adventures?
  • by mperrin (41687) on Saturday February 17, 2001 @01:24PM (#423965) Homepage
    The people who study and work hard to perform better on the SATs will tend to get better scores on the SATs than those who slacked off.

    OR, is it the kids whose parents pay for $900 Kaplan courses who will do better? There's a huge industry around preparing people for these tests, and it's not at all fair to poorer students who just can't afford that sort of resources.

    No, I'm not saying that smart kids can't do well without such courses - that's how I was myself. But the existence of high-priced prep courses definitely does bias things towards people who can afford them.

    There is no easy magic bullet when you come to testing. Every test is going to be unfair to some group or other, and you will have to take that into account. That said, there can come a time when it becomes clear that a certain test's flaws outweigh its utility, and you should ditch it.

  • If you want to have a standardised test, you've got to draw the line somewhere; there's only so much you can fit in a year. As for changing the math program, that sucks, but it's probably a good idea. The year before I graduated calculus was knocked out of the provincial math program. Since almost all universities outside of BC assume some knowledge there, my first year of university in Ontario was total catch-up. It would definitely be a good idea to put calculus back in. If it screws everyone in grade 9 up, too bad, but it's for their own good.
  • Any college admissions system worth it's salt has a multiple regression model that predicts the likely success of a student based on a variety of parameters - including the results of a standardized test like the SAT, the GPA, what school that GPA was attained at, what courses and track the student was enrolled in, and the extracurricular activities the student participated in, etc.

    Yes, this is how it should be, I agree. However, for truly tremendous state school systems like the UC, which admits on the order of two hundred thousand students a year, they tend to decrease the complexity of the model. From what I've heard, the undergrad admissions process at UC really is a big equation into which they plug your test scores and GPA and about three other factors, and out pops a "yes" or "no". The current policy relies on standardized test scores *way* more than it should, and that's what they're looking to fix. Whether they need to completely drop it in order to stop over-relying on it is a seperate question, but I do think it's good that they recognize there's a problem.

  • Two problems, both from personal experience:

    What happens when an exceptional student goes to a poor school? Where I'm from, the state gives scholarships to the top SAT scorer at each school. In previous years at my school, that was usually in the 1300s -- one year it was 1180. My year was different. I got a 1560 and most of my friends were over 1300. Should my 4.0 (perfect) GPA have counted less than that of someone at another school just because the average student at my school didn't do well in previous years? Why should I have been punished for not wanting to go the the expensive and snobby private school were I live? I liked the people at the school I went to and it was very convenient to go there. Even if you evaluate it on a yearly basis (before application deadlines are due?), you still have the problem of a really good student in a really bad class.

    The second problem comes more from college experience since I went to a small school (hence the lack of an exceptionally high student or two every single year to keep the top score from being so low). What happens if your GPA is lowered because you happened to get the shaft teacher that time around? It's shouldn't reflect on you that the two Biology teachers in your high school grade so differently. Student in one class would tend to have lower average GPAs while students in the other one would have higher average GPAs. This cannot be easily corrected due to new teachers arriving each year and teachers getting stuck teaching a class one time due to staff contraints. It would be a nightmare to track this nation-wide and couldn't be done correctly. I know that in college my GPA has gotten hit a couple of times from being stuck with professors that graded extremely harshly compared to others, who simply didn't teach the material they tested on, etc. In short, you can't accurately weigh the entire school because the data isn't fine-grained enough.
  • I agree with the parent poster. I also have one other point to bring up: The SAT is adesigned as a measure of how well you will do in college. dyslexia certainly makes colleghe HARD, so dyslexia should make the SAT HARD. Why correct for the desired result?
  • I'm also from Ontario.

    Although we don't have SATs, there are other academic factors besides marks that determine if you get admitted to universities or not that could probably be used in the Unites States:

    -Some universities run contests for mathematics, science and engineering. For example the University of Waterloo runs a math contest every year. You have to write it and PASS it if you want to get into their faculty of mathematics. A pass also helps you (but is not required) for science and engineering. I failed it (by 1 point) and still was offered admission into engineering.

    There's a similar contest from the University of Toronto for engineering, and another one from Waterloo for chemistry.

    The contest allows universities differentiate between students with aptitudes for specific subject areas without having to wonder what a 90% at XYZ high school is worth compared to some other one.

    -The Drop factor: Most universities, although they claim that they're not doing this, have some sort of a factor, usually called the "drop factor" which tells how many percentage points your average drops from what you had in high school. High schools with better drop factors are treated more favourably when looking at high school averages.

    -Information forms. When applying for admission for university, you usually have to fill out some sort of information form telling them about your interests, extracurricular activities and why you want to do what you want to do. I actually had to write a (max 6 page) semi-essay for one of them.

    Don't get me wrong, high school averages are incredibly important in Canada. I'm just saying that there are other ways for prestigious schools to scan for really bright students without having to worry about SATs (which are, IMHO, so easy to pass that they are insulting.)

    O'Toole's Commentary on Murphy's Law:

  • I (formerly) attended a posh Canadian private school. If you know the Canadian educational system, you'll know where I mean. We were told when we started applying to colleges that it wasn't so much of a question of if we'd get accpeted, it was more a question of how soon. We were told (quite accuratly) that any grade we received would be taken into account by the admissions people in light of the school we came from. It's not fair - I agree with the guy who pointed out the issues with a multiplier - but it happens everywhere. Face it. Saying it dosen't and it shouldn't is like beleiving that merit is the only way to get promoted at a company, or that life s fair.
  • Good point, but if the tests are directly causing the students to come to college less prepared, and there are other measurement factors that can replace test results, why keep them? Admitedly, they are quasi-useful at this time, but if UofC takes the initiative to start a wave of test result non-reliance, other schools will follow. It only makes sense that some students would choose to apply only to schools that don't require SAT scores. This could eventually eliminate the SAT and, thankfully, reduce the power of the College Board in determining whether students land on Go in the college process. I just finished up the whole college application process and it completely disgusts me how much power the College Board has over my future. Looking over the past couple of years, they have run the PSAT, SAT, AP tests, and their Profile financial aid application. The fact that they have opened a for-profit branch specializing in selling test study materials is even more ridiculous. This president is on the right track - if standarized tests of academic "achievement" are eliminated it will lead to a better pool of students that won't have wasted months of their high school lives studying for a bogus test.

    Also, I'm not particularly biased in this area. Having been named a National Merit Finalist and having scored well on the SAT, I imagine that the College Board has helped further my status quite a bit as far as acceptance/scholarship goes. I'd still prefer to fight it out with other applicants based solely on my academic achievement, community involvement, and character rather than my test scores. If all schools were to replace the test score criteria with a short phone interview, they would be far better off.
  • >Blanket regection of standarized tests is stupid, for the simple reason that they provide a useful predictor of the likely success of a student.

    ... though worse than most measures, including GPA, when these measure have been compared to success in college.
  • That's part of my point too. You can't accurately judge it, and if you don't, you punish exceptional student either at bad schools at good schools or at both.
  • My Calculus, English, and Physics teachers are mong a select few in the state of Oregon developing a program called PASS. It is going to be used in the next 5 years for all of Oregon's universities, and will be more influencial than either GPA or SAT scores. One part of the PASS program is that you turn in samples, and in the end an actual portfolio from which you are marked as proficient, exceeds, and some other things I forget. There's a failing of course but they probably use some nice word for it. Anyway, Stanford looked at Oregon's PASS program and REALLY liked it. I wouldn't be surprised if California adopts something like this.
  • charging racism is easy. it doesn't require the accuser to change anything about themselves.

    there are legitimate reasons why the scores may be different.
    let's face it: many minorities live in poorer families; minorities have a higher percentage of single-parent homes; a high percentage of minorites live in areas with more crime; ... and on and on.
    all of these things create problems for minorities to be able to focus as much on school and the school itself has to worry about a lot more than school.
    none of these situations means that there is racism present, and to correct them in a way that would be more favorable to minority races would be racist.
  • Errr.. well, except for the fact that the best way to do well on standardized tests is to study the *test*, not the material. Check out the (fantastically successful, and effective) test prep courses. They don't teach the material. They teach how to take the test without knowing the material. They work *really* well, and the "High Standards" craze which is sweeping the nation is forcing teachers to adopt the same method -- it's either that, or they lose their funding or their job.

    You end up with people admitted to university without understanding *at all* the material the test is supposed to assess. Woohoo!
  • They perform the "nez rouge" test, much different than the standard American ones.
  • Many anti-SAT arguments seem to assume that there's this large population of students who have no problem learning and understanding math, English, and other rigorous subjects but are somehow incapable of learning test-taking skills. Are test-taking skills really more esoteric than calculus? Others say that its unfair if you're ill or have a bad hair day on the appointed test-taking day, but at least when I took the SAT you could always cancel your scores on the day of the test if you really felt it went poorly. And some like to point out the obvious, that SAT scores aren't accurate to 10 points--at least when I took the SAT, they marked a range with 'X's on our score reports showing the accuracy to which we should interpret our scores. A 10-point difference is of course insignificant, but a 100 point difference probably is significant, and a 200 point difference most certainly is significant. Although its possible to be good at math and not get a high math SAT score, it's almost impossible to get a high score if you're not good at math: a high score means you're good, a low score either means you're not good or you're not good with tests. But I can't imagine that admissions officers at selective colleges are so dumb as to not be able to figure this out. Yet this is the implicit accusation that many SAT opponents are making. If I were an admissions officer, I'd probably feel insulted.

  • What I learned from doing very well on tests was that they didn't test anything that meant anything.

    This doesn't matter. The test is designed to be a valid indicator of how well (as defined by grades) a person will do in college. If it asked about yak farming, because that was the best indicator of future performance, then that would be a valid question.

    This all might seem silly, and no test can capture all of the complexities of an individual, but that is not the point. All of these personal, anecdotal exceptions to the relevancy of SATs don't matter.

    You can disagree with the philosophy behind the following statements, but right now they reflect the situation in education as it exists: Currently colleges must do something to limit who can come in and who cannot. Colleges consider successful students to be those who go on to graduate from the college with high marks. The best indicator of how well somebody will do in college is a combination of their high school GPA and SAT or ACT score.

    Now, as for the anecdotes, of course these statements don't apply exactly to you. This is where college admissions boards have an extremely difficult and possibly impossible job. They are trying to apply broad statistical principles to individuals, and many of them get it horribly wrong. I have seen lists of applicants with a (literal) cutoff line drawn at 1200 (or wherever). This is completely the wrong way to go about it. There is no valid reason that an 1190 with a 3.8 gpa is worse than a 1210 with a 3.7 gpa. The problem with the lines, is that somebody is always on the border. It is easy to see that a 900/2.1 might not be suitable for a particular institution, but what about the people between 1200 and 900?

  • by mizhi (186984) on Saturday February 17, 2001 @11:03AM (#423984) Homepage
    I don't think the tests are worthless. Granted, they gauge a very limited area of knowledge and are not be all and end all evaluations of intelligence. I think eliminating the SATs entirely is a mistake. They should include other tests in other subjects as well as other types of testing rather than "multiple guess". This will allow universities and colleges to get rough assessments of a person quickly while giving students who may not perform very well in certain conditions the opportunity to demonstrate that they can excel in other situations.
  • But saying that just because I"m a minority the SAT is biased against me is racism.

    Don't be a moron.

    All the NAACP is saying is that the test is biased, and that this means that a minority test taker is likely to do worse on the test because of the bias not because minorities are less intelligient. So a minority who did just as well on the test is more intelligent.

    You don't see how the color of your skin affected your SAT's. Well, it didn't, and the NAACP isn't saying it did. In this country, there is more to race than just skin color. It's about culture, biases inherant in the system, and assumptions those in power make about you. It's about social power. All of these things and more are the reasons why the NAACP made its statement. I can assure you that they do not think minorities are inherantly stupid.

    A color blind society would be nice, and should be our long term goal. But is is not color blind right now, and by pretending it isn't we don't make any progress. We make progress by eliminating barriers to the social, political, and economic power that differentiates the races in this country.

    Me, I'm a Puerto Rican, and you'd probably only know it if I told you (and I just did). I'm not very dark, I have a white name, and througought my life I have culturaly been a white person, in effect. I did well on the SATs, and certainly I wasn't affected by my race.

    But I'm an outlier. Maybe you are, too. If the only impact your race has had on your life is your skin color, then you are. We aren't the ones that are being affected, and we aren't the ones the NAACP was talking about.

    Maybe a little more though before going and accusing the NAACP of being racist towards you.
  • The biggest problem with what you suggest is that you're aiming at a moving target. Each class going through a high school is different--in some areas, it's all dependent on how many kids were born that year. [More kids having an effect on how classes interact, etc.]

    The thing that I've always chuckled about with the SAT is that ETS realizes its a moving target, and they normalize the test scores every once in a while [two years?]. My SAT score would probably be higher if I'd taken it when my brother did, back when the test studies weren't as complete.

    Hell, I own a high [1510] SAT score, but it hasn't done me much good in college [roughly 3.0 GPA]. It's a measure of roughly how smart you are and how lucky you are on a particular day. I took the ACT five times, and only once did I see a significant [3-point] jump.


  • I'm amazed at how little know it is that the Princton review SAT prep books PROVE that the SAT/GRE is completely defective and also PROVE that you can get a good score without even reading the questions. I could go into the theory here but wont, just go to the bookstore and read the first few pages of any one of their books. Its also not well known that the questions arent carefully crafted and designed with built in levels of difficulty but are actually written by a motely crew of students, secretaries, and other employees and their worthiness and difficulty are actually determined by how well they test in trials- any easy question everybody gets right, a difficult question is one that a high percentage of test takers that got more questions right got right. Actually knowing this process is how you can take the test without reading the questions. So basically, the tests are composed up of questions that are carefully crafted by professonals to judge aptitude (or acheivement) but are actually thrown in to a Question Galapagos Islands where they are selected for by statistics generated by how trial testers handle them. There's a lot more evil to the SAT, like how the company that makes them lies about their effectiveness, and the fact that they actually have a monopoly on all scholastic testing. I wish I could remember the names of the books on this subject, especially one written by an investigative reporter, but its been a while.
  • the connection between what the SAT actually tests and anything that actually matters, such as intelligence

    Actually it is quite high. I don't have the statistics handy, but the SAT is basically an intelligence test.

    The SAT is not even a particularly good predictor of good grades in college

    This may be the case, but there is nothing better.

    good grades in college is a pretty bad predictor of success in life

    Success in life is a bit harder to define than good grades in college, but if "success" is measured as salary and responsibility, then there is not much better than grades in college to predict future success.

    (re: all of this good and better business, just because something is the best, doesn't mean it is good, there is simply nothing that is closer to perfection. i.e. all operating systems suck, some just suck less than others.)

    If we had a good test for intelligence

    There are good tests for intelligence, people just don't like what they measure. Intelligence is one of the most reliable psychological characteristics that can be measured about a person. The correlation between a test given to an individual at one time point, and at a later time point is about 0.80, which is very high for psychological characteristics.

    This is getting back to the point of the original post, it isn't that intelligence tests are bad, it is that people don't like what they say, which is that not all people are the same, some are smarter, some are much smarter, and there isn't much that anybody can do about it.

  • by JeffL (5070) on Saturday February 17, 2001 @01:59PM (#424004) Homepage
    I think the preceding post sums up the situtation better than any other I have seen. The tests are not perfect, of course they have flaws, but they are better than anything else out there.

    The whole school system should be setup to push each student to the maximum of their potential, regardless of how high or low it is. Sucks if my kid isn't as smart as that other one, but don't stop teaching calculus in high school, just because some of the kids won't do well in it.

  • I probably wouldn't have made it anywhere in the US (I checked some sample SAT tests, and I know I wouldn't have made it)

    Don't sell yourself short. You write and reason more cogently than a good share of the morons I've seen in American colleges - even some of the best schools.

  • Questions like 'what is a 3.9 at Stuy' worth already have answers.

    Huh? Of course that has an answer -- an admissions officer at any top school can look at a transcript from Stuvesant, Exeter, Punahou, Beverly Hills High and size the student up instantly. Although the 'multiple regression model' they're using is purely inside their heads.

    But what about a student from Gerald Ford High in Haystack, South Dakota? By what standard is that transcript supposed to be judged? To my mind, the students who benefit the most by standardized tests are the ones from poor or rural schools.

    Anyway, as a product of a UC, I think I can state confidently that what they're trying to do is sneak racial preferences back into the system by removing absolute criteria that might embarass them.

  • But if I'm a college administrator, my goal should be to provide my services (education) to those who are best able to take advantage of them.

    Now given that, I would like the most intellegent students possible, not the ones who _currently_ know the most. Given that differing schools give a differing quality of education (self evident, do a week of volenteer work in an inner city school as a tutor in computers or whatever your specialty is if you have any doubts) students are not going to approach the SATs on the same footing, despite the fact that they may be as intelligent, or capible of assimulating the teaching.

    Remove the rocks to send email
  • I went to Stuy, and I know kids from Thomas Jefferson, Bronx Sci, Brooklyn Tech, and then I graduated HS from U of C Lab School in Chicago where I met kids from other (in)famous magnet schools like Whitney Young, and Lincoln Park. It's not for nothing that kids went there, on average kids from those schools are brighter than the average doornob. And actually, its the non-robots that always acted like they owned the world, the soulless math/sci robots stared at their feet to much to communicate any ego they might have developed.

    Anyway, the whole idea of grade inflation at schools like that is to get other colleges to recognize the fact they they had to be relatively intelligent to take classes at those schools, without having to understand the cache of the school itself. So the whole argument goes out the window if colleges know about the HS's and start looking at 3.9's from Stuy as being better than 3.9's from Crenshaw. Unless Crenshaw is inflating... So now things get more complicated. Stuy sucks cuz as I'm surprised more Stuy ex-pats havne't pointed out, its on a 100.00 (and those decimal places do matter to far too many Stuyvies) scale, so 3.9's aren't possible. A better system is one like Whitney Young in Chicago, a 4.0 system that adds 1 point to the system for honors classes and 2 points for AP classes. That way any of the 'giftedness' is accounted for directly in the grading system.

    The entire system needs an overhaul, but then again when hasn't a governmental institution needed an overhaul? I guess that's why we have a fascist for a president now, those private school waivers are looking mighty tempting...

  • Why should public universities even have admissions standards at all? (hear me out)

    They were meant to provide educational opportunities to those people who wanted an education, but weren't the scions of some inbred Bostonian merchant family. Does allowing someone who may not have the ability really hurt the school that much?

    So they can't handle it, they get bad grades, they drop out. It's not like incompetence is contagious, and those who can handle it will do just fine.
  • I was a "bad kid" my first two years of high school. For various reasons, I got very poor grades - I was a classic underachiever.

    In my junior year, my attitude changed dramatically, but my GPA was still a piece of crap. I got straight A's the last two terms of that year. My high school suffered from tremendous grade inflation, so I ranked very far down in both GPA and class rank even after getting my act together - something like 20% of the kids had 3.9 GPAs or higher.

    Fortunately, I blew the lids off the standardized tests. I don't think I would have been able to go a respectable college if I didn't have a standardized test score to save my ass. From there I was able to throw myself into a CS curriculum and transfer up in the world after two semesters.

    Do we really want to determine people's options largely based on whether they didn't give a damn when they were 15 years old?
  • The SAT seems to be the new scapegoat for a lot education problems now a days. It is certainly not a perfect test for predicting a person's undergraduate performance, but is not worthless either. Whether there's a meaningful difference between a score of 1200 and 1000 is debatable, but a person scoring 700 will almost certainly have a harder time in college than someone scoring 1300. So it is measuring *something*, and this something can be a useful predictor of how difficult university-level studies will be for someone. Like many things in life, predicting someone's success in college (as measured thru grades and graduation rates) is difficult and depends on many factors. SAT scores and GPAs are the easiest to measure and compare, and in fact do a decent job of predicting undergraduate performance during the first year (after this, other factors come in to play such as social relationships, peer pressure, family circumstances, etc. that cannot easily be predicted during the admissions process). In truth many other factors such as personal drive, time management skills, the ability to learn new material quickly, as well as cultural expectations can be just as important in determining how well a student will do in college. But, alas, these are not really measurable. Essays and extracurricular activities may indicate some of these qualities, but that's about all they can reliably do. Dropping the SAT without replacing it with some other kind of objective test, is in my opinion a mistake. Even if it's 'arbitrary' test (as some critics claim), it's a nationwide 'arbitrary' test that allows students' scores from different high schools (and decades!) to be compared. This is an advantage to students from rural or non-standard high schools as it gives them a chance to compete head-to-head with students from well-know prep schools. Another reason for not dropping the SAT, is that without an independently administered objective test, it's just too easily to fool yourself as to where your skill levels really are. You may think you're the greatest wrestler or trumpet player in the entire country. Your parents and coach may even agree, but until you play a match or a recital, that's no way to really know. Likewise in academics, if every high school student is a B+ or better student every year, there's no way to know how schools are doing and which ones are in trouble. In general problems that can't be measured, can't be fixed and you certainly won't know it when you have.
  • In 1997, when I took the SAT, you could miss 2 questions on the verbal (not just skip, but actually answer incorrectly) and still get an 800. However missing a question on the math section got you a 790.
  • I think the SAT's are quite good at measuring how well you think. Certainly more accurate than grades, which basically measure how well you kiss ass. The best preparation for the SAT's is to read a lot of books.
    Of course, I knew people who put the cart before the horse and arduously prepared for the SAT's.
    He talked about visiting classrooms where 12-year-old's spent hours studying lists of analogies, a central feature of the SAT.

    I remember people like that. Somehow I doubt that all that memorization helped them. If you don't think rationally to start with, analogies will seem an arbitrary puzzle disconnected from daily life.
    There's a paradox here, somehow related to the fact that people who got into programming for the money aren't making the best money.
    Anyway, I'm sad to see the SAT losing ground, as it's one of the few standard objective measures in education. But clearly the rulers of the education establishment want 'diversity' rather than academic quality.
  • "Could this be a way for admission people to work for diversity?"

    The answer is yes.

    I'm not so sure. Looks like a way for the UC administrations to evade an objective standard. This increases their own discression and power, to the detriment of out-group students.

    As I understand it, a big problem with the current admission practice is that some of the schools (UC Berkley for example) give extra points for "advanced placement" high-school class grades. Students who take them and do well can easily get a much "better than perfect" high-school grade point average. This is cranked into the "objective" formula.

    These classes are available in the highschools of rich neighborhoods, but not poorer ones. And even when they ARE available, each school's AP classes are given an individual weighting factor. AP points from "good" schools count more than those from "mediocre" scools. "Bad" schools needn't bother.

    The result is that a student from a ghetto school can ace every class, including any AP they might have available, blow the top off the SAT, and STILL be below the "objective" cut-point for admission to California's premier colleges. They go to a lower-tier college if they get in at all.

    (Then hi-tek execs can hire only grads from top-tier schools - UCB, MIT, etc. - for the plum positions. This gives them a licence to perpetuate the state-sanctioned discrimination.)

    This isn't just academic (so to speak). Exactly this situation happened to the daughter of one of my neighbors.

    The solution is to eliminate the AP classes from the admission process. This eliminates the crypto-racisim and crypto-classism, and lets students in the door on an equal basis. Once they're in, they get to sink or swim on their merits.

    But that doesn't mean eliminating them from college entirely. An EXCELENT use for an AP class from a qualified school program would be as an equivalant of a prerequisite from the 100 or 200 series of classes. Those who passed AP classes could get to the meat of their higher education a bit earlier.
  • His point was that British Columbia has standard provincial exams. The course content is laid out by the Ministry of Education and all students write the same centrally-marked exam.
  • > The whole school system should be setup to push each student to the maximum of their potential, regardless of how high or low it is.

    Things used to be that way, but times have changed. For example, check out some questions from the 1901 [pbs.org], 1926 [pbs.org], and 1999 [pbs.org] exams.
  • "The time involved was not aimed at developing the students' reading and writing abilities but rather their test-taking skills," Dr. Atkinson wrote. "I concluded what many others have concluded -- that America's overemphasis on the SAT is compromising our educational system."

    I find this quite interesting, but it makes sense with everything else I have read about the progression of the education system - more and more schools are teaching children not to think critically, examine facts, compute, and reason, but just give them "job skills" and train them to pass the standardized tests.

    Here in British Columbia [gov.bc.ca], Canada, the entrance requirements for universities are indexed against scores on the final exams for various required courses (english, science, social studies, mathematics, etc) in grades 11 and 12. Therefore, in order to qualify for university admission, one has to master the subjects being studied, not "lists of analogies"...

  • by perdida (251676) <thethreatproject AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday February 17, 2001 @11:08AM (#424066) Homepage Journal
    In a letter Dr. Atkinson sent to the University of California's faculty senate today and in a speech he will give here on Sunday to the American Council on Education, an advance copy of which the
    school released tonight, Dr. Atkinson criticized the reliance on SAT's to rank students for admission to schools, saying that they are "not compatible with the American view on how merit should be defined and opportunities distributed."

    How will they define merit? Will this "holistic" approach consider test scores and gpa's from highschool take differences between schools into account? By no account will that remove bias. Both the schools that grade students and the ways those grades would be weighted in university admissions processes will be biased. That could lead to the wholesale exclusion of students from certain regions from the best schools, due to a lack of any universal ranking factor that disregards the quality of their highschool educational systems.

    Furthermore, stuff like advanced placement tests [collegeboard.org] are not a good solution. It takes money to train teachers to teach administer the yearly AP classes.

    Unless the poorest schools, in the poorest regions, get federal money to introduce a better universal standard of measuring highschoolers, lets not replace the one we've got.
  • Could this be a way for admissions people to work for diversity?

    Someone just sued Michigan's law school because she was turned down, while a minority student with worse test scores was accepted. I imagine that if you didn't have test scores, the law suits would be a lot harder to win.

    I'm a little older than most people here, and I like affirimative action. Things are a lot better than they used to be, and I think affirmative action helped us get there. I'm not trying to bash the people who want to throw out testing. I'm just trying to speculate about motives.
  • Whatever evaluation system you come up with to evaulate who should get admitted do higher education institutions or not, it will be biased. There's no way around it

    A qualatative solution would take into account the person's past achievements like community involvement, extracurricular activities, desire to enrich the lives of others, and tasks that they have accomplished.

    This would not work in all cases because often, people are disadvantaged and do not have the opportunity to show off their abilities in this manner. The selection process would be biased againt these people.

    A quantative solution involves associating a person with a number correlated to academic performance.

    But then again, some people may be very smart and just slack off in school, knowing that their brains are still functioning. We all know that this is very common, and again, the selection process would be biased againt these people.

    You see, since everyone's different, there is no optimum solution, with or without standardized testing. There's no way to summarize a person.

    I would suggest, as an alternative, to come up with an evaluation method that combines the qualatative and the quantative...something that would find the most noteworthy aspects of each individual, not favouring numerical marks or letters of recommendation. This idea may not be completely perfectly objective, but it's the best idea that I can come up with.

    O'Toole's Commentary on Murphy's Law:

  • Alright, let me expand the statment: "smart people are more likely to wind up in high paying jobs, have disposable income, understand the benefits of savings and investment, save, invest, and therefore become rich." That having been said, you're right; both common sense and personal experience tell me that luck is a far greater factor; being in the right place at the right time does count for alot. I'll also point out that most tests, as well as schools, don't test for, or care about, intelligence; quite the opposite. Real native intelligence can be quite the disadvantage in your average school. And all IQ measures is literacy and spatial awareness.
  • He talked about visiting classrooms where 12-year-old's spent hours studying lists of analogies, a central feature of the SAT.

    You're telling me that there are public schools prepping kids for the SAT's four years before they'd take the test?!? Are you kidding me?

  • by state*less (246807) on Saturday February 17, 2001 @09:35PM (#424084)
    Place 30 high school students in a class room. Throw some computers in there. Maybe some books on philosophy, and some beakers, chemicals and a few classic text books. Observe the kids, watch which ones play with the toys. If a kid needs more equipment supply it. Also note the students who complain about the sitution. Ask them what they would rather be doing. If they say i'd rather be outside playing football, they probably don't belong in college.
    The students who enjoy playing with ideas, inventing and learning are the students who belong in college.
    There is nothing wrong with those who don't belong in college there just differnt and for them to pretend to be something there not would be a tragedy.

    Time is Change
  • by vectro (54263) <vectro@pipeline.com> on Saturday February 17, 2001 @11:10AM (#424085)
    It's possible to design a good standardized test. But the test won't stay good.

    The problem is that tests like the SAT are based on the idea of correlation - you can find various things, such as the ability to make word analogies, that corelate well with the thing you're trying to measure, in this case, university aptitude.

    But the problem is that once you've done this, everyone who wants to do well on your test will start studying the things that are on the tests. Over time, the cumulative effect is that your corelation is distorted.

    The SAT has come to the point where teachers focus on it far too much. So, either drastic changes are needed now to the form of the test (e.g. different types of questions), in addition to ongoing periodic changes, or another method of identifying aptitude is necessary. It appears that the University of California (the Santa Cruz campus of which I am writing this from) is taking the latter approach, perhaps because ETS was unwilling to take the former.
  • That's a good question. Community colleges generally serve that purpose, along with some state colleges (as opposed to "universities") which have open admission.

    When the individual who's not part of that "inbred Bostonian merchant family" (whose members won't be going to any public school) does well for a year or two at one of those, he or she can transfer into a state university.

    While incompetence isn't contagious, standards generally fall to the level of the average student in the curriculum, from my (admittedly limited) observation.

  • I think the "change" that is long overdue is not getting rid of the SAT (or ACT, or any other standardized test) at all. Colleges need some sort of standardized method of comparing applicants. Instead, the tests need to be modified to cover more knowledge, and include an essay section (to help people that are poor at multiple choice tests). The type of questions that the student did good or bad on (science math english history whatever) would also be reported to the school. (instead of just reading, writing and math) Then the school would be responsible for seeing whether the candidate would meet the standards. The problem is that the current tests are much to focused

  • Did a web search on the test. You are comparing a test that tests ebonic slang versus an (admittedly imperfect) intelligence test measuring mathematics, logic, and reasoning like the SAT?

    That's not exactly a fair comparison. Why not create a test about (female or) male anatomy, genitalia, and internal behaivor, give it to teenagers of both genders. And score 'intelligence' based on how well someone does.

    Math is math is math. It's only one facet of intelligence, but for most engineering/science schools it is a critical skill, one needs aptitude in math to succeed. Ebonics, music, football, kinesthematics, they are all useful skills and intelligences, but inappropriate for most science/engineering universities.

    Ebonics or any other cultural slang are critical and necessary to suceed in their own areas. College, which the SAT is used for, is unlikely to be one of them.
  • You know, I realize that the SAT's are useless, but there are a lot of smart people out there who may not have applied themselves in high school very much, but can score well on the SAT's because they are smart, not because they've crammed for them.

    Maybe I'm mistaken,but alot of times those smart kids grow up in college and do quite well for themselves and the universities they attend.

  • rich people are most likely to be smart
    Reverse that to say 'smart people are more likely to wind up rich' and you might have an argument.
  • I do not consider this to be the same thing as intelligence. Many intelligent people presumably have a very low aptitude for academics. (We've all heard the one about Einstein flunking math... :)

    I would argue that you have a hidden axiom in your argument, namely that one's intelligence is actually synonymous with one's "ability to take advantage of" an educator's services. I guess I am challenging this assumption and in particular I do not believe it to be true.

    I must tip my hat to you sir/madam, posting to Slashdot has made my reasoning muddy :).

    Try this one on for size, just because Einstein failed Math does that imply that it was worthless to teach him? I myself have much the same LD collection as he did (not, you understand that I am comparing myself to Einstein! :)) and I was capable of learning math, I understood the theroies of math and Calculas, as my performance applied subjects (Physics in particular, being highly math dependant) demonstrates, but had problems coming out with correct answers in a pure math environment (in physics there's always a way to double check your work, if you do a number inversion, it's generally blatently obvious (well gee, the acceleration of gravity came out to 400m/s^2. Now we punch it in over here, and find that I should be flat. I think I must have goofed.) I think it's arguable that Einstein had to have learned math from somewhere, and should have been able to avail himself of the educational system despite his LD.

    I believe that tests such as this one (and IQ tests for that matter) make excellent diagnostic teaching tools, but are often used for political reasons (IQ tests in particular have been used for years to prop up many cases of descrimination) to deny education to people who deserve it.

    *grins* and how dare you use a word like axiom in a /. post :)?

    Best back at you,
    Remove the rocks to send email
  • The University of Michigan gives +20 points on their 150 point admissions scale to blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans. They're currently spending $millions to convince a federal judge that this isn't racist.

    Waiting until students are of voting age to merely pretend that the government education monopoly did a first-class job is insane. We need to break that monopoly and give parents a decent chance at sending their kids to good elementary and secondary schools. In short, we need state-level voucher systems. Too bad it doesn't look like it's going to happen, partially because the Republican base is in suburban districts that general have decent public schools, but mostly because the Democrats have successfully made voting for their party a test of racial loyalty (kinda like they did to southern whites half a century ago), and the monopoly teachers unions bankroll the Democrats. The Republican Party would have one hell of a wedge issue if it had the balls to use it. Pity.
  • SAT is the only unbiased indicator in most college applications. Most people receive help on essays, which favours the person who is able to tap the better resources. Other accomplishments, eg. school president, favour students who went to small schools or schools that encourage such activities. Removing SAT is going to make the process more subjective, thus more unpredictable to prospective applicants. It will also work against foreigners (WHO SPEAK ENGLISH), but that is a different story.

  • My grades in high school were terrible. If I hadn't scored in the 98th percentile on the ACT I would never have gotten into college.

    I'm thinking SATs and ACTs are Good Things [tm].


  • It's a shame /. linked to the Yahoo story, because it's really a biased one that makes it seem like they want to do away with standardized testing all together. This L.A. Times story [latimes.com] is a much more balanced perspective. Especially telling is this line:
    "In many ways, we are caught up in the educational equivalent of a nuclear arms race. We know that this overemphasis on test scores hurts all involved, especially students. But we also know that anyone or any institution opting out of the competition does so at considerable risk."

    They are taking a big risk here. You, as many others, see this as a move that will harmfully affect you: "I'm NOT who he wants to help, I'm who he wants to hurt." This is absurd. He's not rying to hurt you. He's trying to help those who do deserve to get in to school get in. The only way to do this is to place less of an emphasis on the test. However, because they see it as an "arms race", the only way to do this is to opt out all together, because if they don't then emphasis will just continue to build on it.

    I personally think it's absurd that the writers of the SAT got to choose my curriculum in high school, and I sure as hell don't believe that any one factor should hold so much sway over college admissions, especially not one that only counts for about 4 hours or so on one day.

    Also, they are not totally planning on scrapping standardized testing, so there's no worry about those kids like your classmates. As the yahoo article points out, they are keeping the SAT II, which I think is a better indicator (as do the statistics, see the times article.) And there's also this:
    "Atkinson is challenging test makers to come up with a new test that would be directly tied to college preparatory courses rather than to what he considers "an ill-defined measure of aptitude or intelligence" like the SAT."

    They want a new test, one that they're not just going to start teaching right to. A fresh start would be a good thing for the stodgy old test anyways. I mean, if you're not particularly good at English or Math, but you're a chemistry, history, and foreign language wizard, why should you be punished for it?

    The goal of this whole move is not to hurt anyone, particularly you! I agree, that you can provide opportunities to those without money. It's called affirmative action, and the UC system is prohibited from doing this via California law, enacted by the citizens themselves. This is a way to extend benefits to those who truly needed it.

    Don't worry though, all the people who, like you, didn't work hard but are still smart enough to do Ok in college will still make it there. You may not get the best education there is, but then do you really deserve it if you didn't earn it?

    Oh, and by the way, I can guarantee Atkinson has thought this situation through more than you
    "He was the founding chairman of the National Research Council's Board on Testing and Assessment and was once a distinguished visiting scholar at the Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT for the College Board."
    Not too ignorant of the ins and outs of admissions and standardized testing in my opinion. He is The UC President after all...

    "I may not have morals, but I have standards."
  • I think that the SATs are a fairly decent concept of what a person knows. Unfortunately, the SATs don't have anything to do with drive or laziness or logic and such...a person with a lot of book knowledge can score well on the SATs and not be able to do much of anything in real life.

    I personally like standardized tests, I generally do fairly well on them (above 1340 on PSATs and SATs, haven't taken SAT II yet) and i wish that school put more of an emphesis on them, simply because it would help me.

    I also have a problem with averages and weighted averages. I am in all honors classes at WAHS [wasd.org] and i recieve pretty decent grades (A's and B's) but there are people in the "regular" classes that recieve higher grades than i do. However, my grades might not look as good to colleges as someone from those other classes. Our school does not use weighted averages, and I don't compare favorably to other people that have taken easier classes that I do. I don't know whether weighted averages would solve this or not, and as far as i am concerned..the only thing the honors classes really do for me is push up my class rank.

  • I think you're right to a degree, that people are hard pressed to prove someone is smarter, but you have to consider factors that make a person "smart" as well as the tests for that intelligence.

    The factors are largely environmental, I think we can all pretty much acknowledge that, especially if all men are created equal. There are some geniuses out there as well as a few mental incompetents, but on the whole our strengths balance with our weaknesses and we balance out (see Hobbes's "Leviathan" for this stuff.)

    As such, if a test like the SAT is playing to certain strengths only (math and english skills) does this seem like a good measure of how "smart" someone is? What if they are incredible chemists, but terrible mathemeticians who can't formulate a proper sentence? Does that make them stupid? I don't know the answer to that, but if no one tests those factors you can't make a good judgement.

    And let's face it, we may all be born more or less equal, but we don't grow up that way. I know I come from a priveledged background, and I simply didn't have to deal with the things that make school feel so irrelevant. Like my parents being out of work and me having to drop out to get a minimum wage job to support my family. Does that make me dumber? What if the only rich people I see who look like me are drug dealers and gangsters, so I do what I know and do the same in order to survive? Does that make me dumb? Conditions matter, and as such we do not all have equal opportunities. This has nothing to do with how "smart" or "dumb" someone is, but rather the opportunities they have actually been given, rather than the equal (or nearly equal, as you say) that they are supposed to have been given.

    "I may not have morals, but I have standards."
  • Whoa, there, buddy...
    The reason y'all run Debian is because your IT structure is being handled by a CS guy (or rather, his volunteer squad). Any place worth their salt would've set up something a little more capable of being beaten around a bit (like FreeBSD).
    Commuting's annoying, but it's not hard or anything. If you took longer to get in that I did, you're obviously not in NYC to begin with.
    And since when did a 95 GPA get hard?
    As for demanding teachers, I really doubt that. They're only demanding if you're lazy. If you're already on the ball, there's no reason to be having such troubles.
    AP Compsci (not post AP) was also a cinch back in the day, although the classes after it got quite a bit tougher (how many of us in class of '98 had a working renderer at the end of the term?)
    And when it comes to being "not taught to pass some stupid test," you're right.

    We're taught to pass *every* stupid test. APs (which are barely being accepted at MIT and the like, if at all after this year), SATs, and every single multiple choice test given by most departments. The only classes where we didn't have tests were certain English courses, which of course had papers instead.

    Of course, since cutting class is so easy for you (I'll assume a forged program card still takes only a few minutes to make if you really don't know where to hide), I'm not surprised by your attitude toward Stuy. Good luck in the real world, you'll need it.

    Class of '98,
  • by Detritus (11846) on Saturday February 17, 2001 @11:25AM (#424149) Homepage
    We don't like the SAT test, since its results disagree with our vision of a fair and perfect world. Therefore, the test is defective and must be eliminated.

    The next time the Doctor says my blood pressure is too high, I will tell him the test is unfair and that he should use an instrument that only produces normal readings.

  • Unfortunately there are certain facts you will have to deal with if you do this. The primary fact being, that there are certain people who are not suited for college, whether that means not intelligent enough, not disciplined enough, or whatever. Instead of encouraging them to learn a trade and get a job and earn a living, here you are encouraging them to go to college if they "want" to.

    I'm not saying give them degrees. I'm not saying give them A's. I'm not saying let them disrupt the experience for anyone else. I'm not even saying give them access to the best faculty until they've proven themselves. I'm merely saying, if they want to waste their money, let them.

    What will you do when they get all F's? What will you do when they realize they have spent four years on their worthless "Communications" degree and are 80 grand in debt and no better off for the trouble? Why, you will pat yourself on the back for being so "progressive" and "caring" that you can make unthinking naive statements like the one above, of course.

    To be completely honest, I think eliminating acceptance standards for college would reduce the number of people who waste their time at college, not increase it. But in any case, their debt is not my problem, it's theirs (and the bank that was dumb enough to loan them the money in the first place).

    You aren't doing someone a favor when you send them to a university where they are likely to fail and from which experience they are unlikely to benefit. Indeed, that is one of the reasons for having standardized tests. If an applicant is simply not suited for Berkeley, and is likely to have a bad academic experience there, it is worse (for the applicant) to say "come on in anyway!" than it is to send him to a less challenging, but more easygoing environment where he can learn at his own pace.

    I am not advocating sending them anywhere, I am advocating allowing them the opportunity to choose for themselves what college or non-college is best suited for them. I think that willingness to risk your time and money (or the willingness of a lender to loan you that money) are a better indicator of your likelihood of success than any standarized test or grades. Perhaps it will be worse for some applicants, but this is something they need to learn for themselves, not something for some idiot in a suit to tell them.

    By the way, are you volunteering to pay for these professors and buildings?

    No, tuition will pay for that. In fact, due to economies of scale, more students will actually bring the tuition per student down, not up.

  • Trying to test for intelligence, which is what they are attempting to do, is much much more difficult then testing for aptitude, which is what they are accomplishing by means of the SAT tests.

    Consider my particular circumstances. I'm a dysgraphic. For the first several years of my shool life, they assumed I couldn't read. Not because I was unable to, mind you, but rather because the method they used to determine if I could read was by making me read something and then write down the answers to questions written on the blackboard. Now I'm sure you're all bright enough to figure out with the benifit of hindsight what was wrong with this method. Yep, I couldn't write. I was later diagnosed Dysgraphic, with related small and large muscle co-ordination problems. I was reading at level, but couldn't write the answers down on the piece of paper. This is an example of the problem of testing for intelligence. They assumed based on my written output that I was not intelligent enough to read. (also wrong, you can be highly intelligent and be dyslexic, but that's another story, and another example of the problems.)

    Later on in my scholastic career, it became obvious that my learning disability affected me in a shotgun-like pattern that made little sense. I scored A's in honours english, and history (after we learned that I could type a lot better then I wrote, and thus began my life long passion for computers), but couldn't for the life of me learn a second language. I scored A-Bs in Physics, Chem and Comp Sci but pure math I was lucky to scrape through with a C.

    Fortunaly I was born in Canada where we handle things a bit differently, and my provincial finals (standardized over the province I live in) are converted to a GPA and used to make my college entrance info. So I could tailor my class load and therefore the tests I had to take towards my strengths (obviously I avoided things like extra math classes, or any extra foriegn langues).

    I doubt my SAT scores would have reflected accurately my intelligence, and probably would have missed my aptitudes too, since I'm weak in pure math and language skills, but strong in applied ones.

    Remove the rocks to send email
  • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Saturday February 17, 2001 @11:29AM (#424156)
    I went to a prep school for my last three years of high school, where I continued to slack in my classes. I did well in extra-curriculars, but I was a mediocre student. However, I rocked my SATs, SAT IIs, and AP tests. I used this to show schools that I was a capable individual and got an opportunity to attend an elite school.

    Does this jive with America's sense of the Protestant Work Ethic and working hard to achieve? Absolutely not. Did I do reasonably well in College? Yes, although a little more effort and I'd have done well. However, my grades alone wouldn't have gotten me in.

    I'm a middle-class white student, I'm NOT who he wants to help, I'm who he wants to hurt.

    Here is the problem though. I went to a prep school with a decent reputation among many schools throughout the nation. As a result, the entire top 20% of my school attended elite schools. My school's reputation got relatively dumb kids with high GPAs at a respectable school and mediocre test scores into good schools.

    Those same kids in a local Public school no doubt would have had high GPAs and low test scores, but not been considered, because the low test scores would show that they weren't that swift.

    All in all, this sounds good, right?

    No. Without test scores, the only means of evaluating GPA is to look at the schools reputation. While this is fine for Private Schools or elite Public schools (magnets focusing on education in the South, special enterance exams in northeastern metropolitan cities, for example), but what about the poor kids from unknown schools?

    Yeah, they'll get a 4.0 unweigthed GPA and rank in the top five or whatever at their school, but do you accept them? At a school you've never heard of in a poor area, you can assume that a 4.0 isn't of reasonable caliber for your school. What do you use, AP classes? If you're from a middle class suburb or attend a private school, AP classes may be the answer. If you're from a poor school area, you don't have that option.

    Yes, money helps. You can't change that. What you CAN do is give people without money an opportunity. The kids with the expensive education and test prep have an advantage on the tests, but it isn't a guarantee.

    In a scenario without the tests, the kids HAVE a guarantee. They are the only ones from high schools that schools have heard of. Without the tests, your poor kid with the 4.0 but no APs because they aren't offered and no SAT scores to back him up doesn't get in, but the kids from the private schools with 3.6 GPAs with a reputation for excellence do.

    That isn't useful.

    Admissions already adjusts for background. The UC system is absurd, allowing admission by test scores alone, which reduces their paperwork, but doesn't help. Their admissions process is too numeric, but they are processing too many applications for hands on evaluations. Schools normally have some kind of cut where they reduce their applicant pool by screening out a certain GPA range. Then admissions officers can make decisions. The poor kid with a 4.0 from a crappy school with a 1300 GPA is probably the equivalent of the wealthy kid with a 1400 GPA based upon the extra training and education. They CAN take that into account. They can't take race into account, but they can figure out the student's background. A poor white kid OR poor black kid should have that taken into account. A rich white kid OR rich black kid should have their background into account.

    No, test scores don't substitute for discretion. But they allow you to justify things. If the kid with a 4.0 GPA had a 1000 SAT, he probably doesn't get in. But with a 1300, he does. Why? In the first case, you can't confirm his aptitude, in the second you can. Without the tests, you CAN'T confirm his aptitude AT ALL. You'd assume he is a 1000 SAT kid because he's from a crappy school and admit the known candidate from the prep school.

    This man HAS NOT thought through his situation. They need to add more discretion, but they don't need to scrap the best means for helping people out.
  • by JeffL (5070) on Saturday February 17, 2001 @11:30AM (#424158) Homepage
    But the problem is that once you've done this, everyone who wants to do well on your test will start studying the things that are on the tests. Over time, the cumulative effect is that your corelation is distorted.

    The people who study and work hard to perform better on the SATs will tend to get better scores on the SATs than those who slacked off. Guess which two skills are extremely important in relation to getting good grades in college? Studying and working hard. In general (always exceptions) people who study and work hard in college make better grades than those who slack off.

    I have a list of words that have appeared on SAT tests in the past, and you have a different list. We take the same test, and just by chance 10% of my words were on the test, but 20% of yours, so you do a little better (because otherwise we are pretty equal in our abilities). This is called error, and anybody using the results of the test should take this into account. If we both took the test again (another version) maybe I would do a little better because this time my words are all over the place. The admission committees knows this, and won't (unless they are stupid) think that somebody who scored an 1150 is clearly a better student than somebody who scored an 1130, though they both will probably do better in school than somebody who scored a 1000.

  • Social life + 95 back in the day: Easy.
    Commute: 1hr 30 minutes.
    Homework: a few hours every night.
    Solution? No sleep, do your homework between classes, fudge stuff, and for god's sake, you *never* need to take a 0-9 unless you're trying to make you senior year run at a bare minimum (which was never worth the 3 years hassle, Senior year was a cinch regardless).

    As for BSD, plain and simple. Ask damn near anyone in the old volunteer squad. Granted, Debian's a step up from an RS/6000 workstation running AIX as the school server, but there could have been better decisions. It's not a matter of necessity, it's a matter of teaching people by using the better product. (And in the 2.0 days, FreeBSD was clearly the better product. I still think it is, but that's entirely subjective.)

  • I beg to differ: Newspapers, especially tabloids, use a restricted vocabulary. As I was getting up to speed on German, it was very easy to read tabs like the Kronen Zeitung (local to Austria) while a business paper like the Frankfurter Allgemeine (international) was a tough slog. But both were much easier than holding up my end of a cafe conversation.

    And, if you know enough word-roots in a few languages, you could probably score better than a poorly educated native speaker, thereby proving what? That the test is invalid? Not. The test would still be a reliable predictor of performance.

  • Your GPA at stuy depends a lot on the teachers you get. There are a lot of bad teachers,a lot of easy ones. THere are easy courses, kids who don't take APs, kids who tailor schedules to maximum GPA, minimum work. Stuy has issues living up to it's reputation.

    There's a wonderful thing called a UFT transfer. Where a teacher in the system who's been etaching long enough can transfer into a position to stuy, regardless of whether or not they are qualified to etach APs or even gifted students. Sometimes budding, wonderful new teahcers, who still enjoy thier work get bumped by a UFT transfer.

    Our principal is a non-confrontational jerk, who refuses to fight the battles that need to be fought. The CS department gets no respect, we're still classified as math classes.

    That's a pessimistic look @ stuy from inside. At least we have knowledgable CS people I can learn from, and student have lots of power. Thanks god we just upgraded to webserver to a PIII-700 penguin box, don't think the old p-pro could have handled it. The layout is new, If you don't like it, don't blame me, I maintain and install the servers, not the content.

  • They should accept anyone who wants to go, regarless of SATs, grades, letters of recommendation, or anything else. Hire more professors, build more buildings.
  • No one loses as much as a coward.
  • by brianvan (42539) on Saturday February 17, 2001 @11:35AM (#424188)
    I think the SAT is the least of our problems.

    First of all, all us Slashdot readers are well aware of the whole "Hellmouth" scenario. That is, if it is absolutely crucial to test an adolescent's intelligence, high school is NOT the place to do it. High school is full of distractions: bitter teachers, bullies, thugs, social cliques, athletic competition, emphasis on passing state-based "dummy" aptitude tests, joke courses, pressure NOT to be the big nerd, extracirricular activities, etc. I'm not saying that all these factors are worthless to the education of a person... as a matter of fact, they ALL get us ready for the real world (bitter bosses, criminals, adult cliques, drinking games, taxes, insurance papers, and other bureaucratic forms, out-of-work interests and hobbies). But, by god, the high school system is so damaging today, that it's a horror that anyone would put any weight on the performance of a person who is currently dealing with it. I mean, what about the SAT scores of all those kids from Columbine... I bet the whole thing of "Our school was nearly bombed and some of my friends and teachers died" surely weighed down on more scores than helped them for the next year's SATs. I mean, that was at least a 3 month lapse in studying ridiculous lists of obscure vocabulary words....

    Also, university admissions are already a mess today. I went through it myself... I applied to 7 schools, and they all had ridiculous-length admissions forms that needed to be hand-typed. I didn't apply to U.Penn simply because I didn't wanna type out another 20-page booklet! Nowadays, colleges are overcrowded, there are so many people trying to get in with all kinds of merits, there are no really reliable performance measures (the SAT is the best thing they've got), colleges are always trying to fill minority and culture quotas, and in the end they wind up with a bunch of party animals anyway.

    And think of other priorities too. My best friend got into MIT with less than a 1300 on his SATs... he was 3rd in his class though, in a not-too-easy high school. But why did he get in? He'll even admit that he thinks it's because he was a good Division 3 football prospect, and he had a "good enough" brain to go with it. He didn't recieve a lick of scholorship money, though, and he needed the money, so he didn't go. He hardly regrets it, too.

    I always think of how Princeton won't accept a lot of kids from New Jersey, being they don't want to be pegged out as a New Jersey school... but how they'll BRAG about how they let a student in who attached a picture to his application of him standing with his prizewinning cow in a corn field in Iowa. As it stands today, it's so much easier to get into an Ivy if you're from North Dakota than if you're from an East Coast metro area simply because the competition is a lot stiffer in those latter-mentioned regions. Schools want diversity, and they don't care if you're more than good enough for their school if they've already got enough kids from your area to attend.

    And, to think, that many kids apply to 6-10 schools today just to make sure they get in somewhere. The flood of applications is overwhelming, and enrollments are not guaranteed based on acceptances. Some schools are picky and yet get jilted because students will pick a better scholarship deal elsewhere... other schools, like mine (U. Delaware), try to deal with overenrollment by cutting admissions... and they consistently get HIGHER enrollments every year anyway, simply because a higher percentage of admissions wind up enrolling every year.

    Enough ranting, though. You get my point.
  • I'll grant that SATs are less than ideal. Like any test, you can cram for it and raise your score temporarily above what you would get on a typical day. So if you want to get a fair comparative appraisal, everybody has to do about the same amount of cramming (i.e. spend all their time cramming immediately before the test), and even then it'll be warped toward cramming ability. Unfortunately, that's the way the whole system is run: testing procedures in general reward cramming. If nothing else, being able to cram for a test demonstrates the ability to quickly assimilate and apply large amounts of information.

    At any rate, students who can't study for and take tests won't do well in university courses, unless they take a total basket-weaving education. SATs are a reliable predictor of later test performance.

    "Reforming" the admission process without reforming the general evaluation process won't produce good results, it'll just cause a lot of people to be let in and then fail. Even an ideal test of true ability would probably pass mostly the same people, it would just free up some of the time they have to waste on cramming (a big step forward if you ask me).

    I'm afraid, though, that we'll never see real testing reform: it'll just be more excuses to let people through and not hurt their feelings by telling them that they're not smart enough, or haven't worked hard enough, or just plain haven't learned enough to get a degree.

    This is just one more step in the general trend toward poorer formal education. A university degree means less and less a certain level of education and intelligence, and more and more a willingness to play along with irrational requirements and not offend anybody for years on end. The degree signifies that you've spent several years without rocking the boat enough to get kicked out.

    I think the best thing I've ever read on the subject is part of Robert A. Heinlein's essay "The Happy Days Ahead" (available in the collection "Expanded Universe", one of my favorite books), in which he explains how to get a degree from the University of California without learning anything. He makes the valid point that there is nothing preventing one from getting a good education, just that "educators" are perfectly happy to give you signed documents saying that you've had an education without actually checking whether you've learned anything. It's starting to show it's age, however, in that the situation wasn't as bad when he wrote it around 1980. I don't believe he uses the term "politically correct" once, which any good modern essay on the sad state of university education would.
  • The SATs were devised to solve a difficult problem: how do you determine which applicants are prepared & qualified to attend your college? As was pointed out, GPA is not a great measure, because grading criteria vary wildly from school to school. A standardized test, administered by an impartial third party, is (in theroy, at least) the most fair and unbiased way to pre-screen college applicants.

    The SAT has come under a lot of fire for allegedly discriminating against certian socio-economic groups. (a dubious claim at best, IMHO) A great deal of effort and money went into making the SATs be as impartial and as fair as possible. If, as the critics charge, the implementation is buggy, then the system might need some modifications. It's not apparant (to me, at least) that the SAT is broken beyond repair, nor has anyone proposed a system that would not suffer from the same kinds of problems as the current one.

    It may be possible that the U of CA college system may be able to produce a better standardized test than the SAT - but it will be expensive for them to re-invent the wheel, and they will open to the same kinds of criticism as the SAT. It's quite possible that they will spend millions of dollars and end up with a test that's even buggier than the SATs. The process of writing a standardized test is very similar to developing software, and most slashdotters should recognize how difficult it is to write bug-free code the first time around. Assume California does away with SATs as an entrance test and comes up with their own. Prospective students who are applying to California and non-California schools are going to need to take both the SATs and the California test. How will the test be administered to out-of-state students? How much will it cost? The added cost of having to take a seperate test to attend a Californa school could be viewed as being descriminatory against poorer students. If you were applying to college and only had enough money to pay for one test - which one would you choose: a test that's only accepted by a handful of colleges, or one that accepted by virtually every other college in the country?

    It's all and well to say that the SAT sucks; but until you come up with somthing that is PROVABLY better, you are just blowing smoke our collective sphincters.

  • This may sound a bit weird, but what about adopting a standardized GPA multiplier system country-wide?

    I imagine a diverse body of educators from around the country could form some sort of impartial organization whose sole responsibility is to measure the relative educational strengths, academic rigors, and overall difficulty level of each of the high schools in the country. And I'm not talking about some silly USNews-esque ranking system based on "alumni donations" or "size of endowment", but a real analysis of the academics of a high school. Each high school would then receive a multipler or weighting, which can then be applied to the students' GPAs and a normalized figure could be acheived.

    The main problem nowadays is that this basic system is already in place, albeit "off the record." I went to a very well-known private school in New York, and even with a (relatively) shitty 3.0 GPA, I got into MIT because "they just know." But this won't always happen, and a kid with a 3.9 at a top-notch school in Nowheresville, USA should be recognized for his acheivements.

    Obviously this is a far from perfect system -- I think the ideal solution is for each school to have its own admission tests outside the scope of the SAT.

    MIT is a VERY different place from Swarthmore, for example. Both are great schools, but using the same test as a basis for admission is silly.


  • As a former grad (class of 2000) who has been involved in the networking setup in stuy, the way we got the .edu is that back when we registered the domain, any school could have a .edu. Since then, things have changed, and only a four-year accredited university can have a .edu. Places like stuy, and Bronx Science [bxscience.edu] where my brother goes, get to keep the .edu because they were grandfathered in. Also, stuy has a full class B block of IP addresses, ( the same way. I always thought stuy should give some of those back, since I know they don't need 4-5 computers per student....
  • Someone's already addressed how you're talking abotu a former professor who never (afaik) hired students to work at his ISP anyway, so I (as another stuy2k) will address your english class issue. I have no clue how you managed to only take one english class. The official requirements (which in my four years they let noone get around) were that you must take eight english courses while at stuy (this amounts to one for every semester). If you had taken freshmen english in high school (as I had) then they will make you take a second set of senior english classes. Now, because they want to really drive home the importance of english, they are eliminating the acceleration and making everyone take freshman english at stuy.

  • The UC admissions process changed a whole bunch starting with people who graduated in 1999. Basically, California passed something that made it really hard to get into a UC school if you weren't living in California. For 1998 grads, 50% of applicants (or like 30 ppl or so) got in to UC Berkley. For 1999 grads, 5% got in (3 ppl for the math disadvantaged). I graduated in 2000. I didn't bother applying to a UC school. Even though by their logic I had a 4.0 GPA.

    Just thought I'd mention this. And as an aside, Dave is right (at least in recent times). There are no grades below I think a 55. They definitely don't go all the way down to zero.

    Dave, if you're reading this, do you know if Seth still wants his Douglas Adams books back?


  • Granting +20 points on admission scores does not even come close to compensate for the disadvantages that minorities face. Is this what you call racist?

    Yes it is, because a) it presumes that all blacks/Hispanics/NA's are disadvantaged, and b) it treats minorities who aren't (yet) academically qualified for university enrollment differently than their white and Asian peers. Excuses, true or not, don't change the fact that students being accepted into universities under AA are less qualified, and should have started at second-tier and community colleges and attempted to reapply to the top-tier universities in 2-4 years (like their white and Asian peers).

    We need to fix the underlying problem, which is the government education monopoly. Everything else is just political posturing.
  • .

    My understanding is that the concern is that people in substandard schools, especially racial minorities, who are often trapped in the worst schools, tend to do disproportionately badly in these tests. However, once admitted to higher education, students in bad schools do significantly better than their scores would have predicted (because of natural ability, higher work ethic, etc, which was ignored in their schools). The idea is that once in college, students who never had the advantages that other the other kids had finally have the opportunity to excel.

    Right now, the unions are opposed to any attempt to give kids in bad schools any way out (even when these plans only target the worst schools and the poorest families). So we need some way to not penalize kids who have the talent and attitude but didn't have the advantages of wealthier families.

    The solution of using racial weighting doesn't cover students who went to bad schools but aren't in a minority. And my asian friends in HS felt an even worse side effect of this system-- it penalized them just because asians tend to do better academically.

    Until we can clean up the public school system-- which will take decades-- we need some solution that doesn't discriminate, but does take into account a person's background and potential.

    For now, the solution is focusing more on well trained admissions boards who take a real look at a student. This is just what the workplace has been doing for years with great success. When a company hires a programmer, they take the applicant's GPA, certifications and school into account, but also the interview, references, maybe a code sample, etc. Paper resumes aren't everything.

    I think this is a very positive step. I got a 1570 SAT back in the days before they bumped all the scores up, so this isn't sour grapes on my part. But I do think that we need to look at everything about a person, not just a test they took in an afternoon one saturday morning.

    My US$0.02

  • About 2-3 years ago, beacuse of the controversy surrounding standardised testing, they changed the name from Scholastic Aptitude Test to Scholastic Achievement Test. Just another attempt to show how they were "keeping up with the times."
  • no wonder the schools were turning you down.

    the sat is out of 1600.

    even if you're thinking of the act, a passing score is 17.
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday February 17, 2001 @11:54AM (#424220)
    Any college admissions system worth it's salt has a multiple regression model that predicts the likely success of a student based on a variety of parameters - including the results of a standardized test like the SAT, the GPA, what school that GPA was attained at, what courses and track the student was enrolled in, and the extracurricular activities the student participated in, etc.

    Questions like 'what is a 3.9 at Stuy' worth already have answers.

    Blanket regection of standarized tests is stupid, for the simple reason that they provide a useful predictor of the likely success of a student.

    MOVE 'ZIG'.
  • SATs and other college admission standards are slightly flawed in one way, certainly...

    That is, they don't accomodate for learning disabilities very well.

    First of all, there's no accomodations to level the playing field for people with LD. Sure, they can get more time on the test, but that's about all they can get... and to take the test LONGER is probably a DISADVANTAGE on its own, considering that kids aren't used to taking 3 hour tests on a Saturday morning as it is. And more time doesn't make taking the test easier for dyslexics, for example... it just gives you more time to struggle with it. If you're a real fighter, you'll manage to pull through... yet the fact that you probably fought harder to take that test than anyone else in the room won't probably be reflected in the score. The lazy kid with a brain across the room will probably have finished in 2 1/2 hours and got a 1600 by luck...

    Second, a lot of learning disabilities go untreated and undiagnosed (or mistreated and misdiagnosed) through high school, because a lot of school systems are ill-equipped to deal with it - other than sending the kids to school on the "little yellow bus". Hence the kids are at an educational disadvantage at that point, even though they may be just as smart as anyone else.

    Oh, and third, there's no standard way of communicating learning disability situations to universities... there's no little black circle to fill in for dyslexia or attention deficit disorder, for example. And if you decide to send a note to every school you apply to so that they'll know and adjust for it... their adjustment will probably be more like not letting you in because they know you'll cost them more money and time than, let's say, any of the normal alcoholics attending colleges today.

  • The SAT test questions are generally designed to be difficult to answer for people who attempt to study the test, rather than the material. Some people may actual gain knowledge of the material with SAT-specific testing, because certain important verbal or mathematical areas may be covered. Unlike the MCSE exam, perhaps, where there are a specific limited number of questions and they are repeated and can be memorized and smuggled out for test-prep courses, the SATs have the entire english language to use for analogies, for example.

    That said, the effects of test-prep, even by the very best courses, are 120-150 points on the high end, for the total test. Historically, about 75% or so of those points disappear within about 8 weeks time after the studying stops. The rest is a "real gain". But that hardly invalidates the test. Notice there is no complaint by the president about the correlation between SAT scores and academic success in the article, only a complaints that, (1) the preoccupation with the test has led to time being spent on studying FOR the test, rather than just the subjects it examines and, (2) the test is not a 'holistic' look at a student's education.

    To this absurdity, I offer some opinions: first, students of any type study for tests. When you sit even in a college class, when your professor chalks something up on a board, you write it down, and add it to your points to study especially. Are you studying for a test? Yes. Are you also learning? Quite possibly.

    Second, the test need not be holistic. Nothing requires a school to specifically use an SAT score as a prime evaluation tool. In fact, it should be obvious, if the SAT correlated poorly with collegiate academic success, it would be only a small consideration, because colleges primarily want to seek students that will do well in their school.

    No, the real problem here is that the UC system doesn't like to select students based on achievement or intelligence or their potential success, because that would leave out the people who can't hack it. Therefore, any test which places any sort of number on people's capabilities is bad. And, of course, since everyone in high school can get a 4.0 if standards are lowered enough, that poses no such problem. The need for everyone to pass, to feel ok, and to be labelled "educated" is what is TRULY responsible for the decline in academic performance. The subjects you teach and the rate you teach them at any level is a window. Through that window, you can capture an optimum learning environment for some subset of students -- the average, the low end, the high end, and you can extend the window with some things (like AP classes, say). Our education system up through high school has been slid down to the low end -- we want everyone to pass, to advance, regardless of their committment to learning, their parental participation, etc. Because of limited resources, the people at the high end sleep through high school and spend their time administering unix boxes remotely, making more than their parents. (Ok, not all of them, but one I know of, should be studying like a sophomore, but knows it all, and is making nearly $100k/yr, saving up for MIT).

    UC Santa Cruz is a great example -- look how they've moved away from just narrative evaluations, because graduate schools want letter grades from students -- and they want a test, in every case, as well.
  • I've never been clear as to why people with learning disabilities were granted extra time on tests.

    I've always looked at it this way. Part of the test IS the test itself. In order to get a good grade there are many things that are required beyond merely intelligence and logic. Firstmost you need to be able to read. Inability to read, or inability to read well, will greatly diminish your ability to perform well on the test; and this is part of the test.

    I don't know about you, but when I took the SATs I had a reading passage from Thoreau. I turned the page, saw the name Thoreau, and let out an audible groan. I hate Thoreau, I hate plowing through his words. My inability to read Thoreau probably negatively affected my grade negatively, and I accept that. It was part of the test. A different author would have given me a different result, but it wasn't on my test. Thoreau was built into this test, and it hurt me. That's fine.

    Things like dislexia will always hurt the person with it. It's not as if the real world opens up and slows down for the person with dislexia to take his time and do his or her job at his or her own pace. As a dislexic you're probably not going to make it as a book review for the New York Times... it's just unlikely. You'll also probably have a hard time with all written tests and written work for the rest of your life. This is not the fault of the SATs, this is just something about how you perform on tests and written work.

    I have a hard time with Thoreau and since Thoreau was on my test I did less well. You have a hard time reading... this will always negatively affect you, and since it was on your test you performed less well. It accurately displays your ability to take a written test. It's accurate. I don't quite understand how it should be handled differently, or why.


  • In short, with this system, how do you compare a 100% on a test at loser school A against a 100% on a test in the same class at super-tough school B without unfairly promoting students at loser school A who wouldn't have done nearly that well at super-tough school B and without panning perfectly good students who just happened to be stuck at loser school A and can't do any better than perfect?

    Of course, this is just on the school level, not even the teacher level where you could just be unlucky enough to the get shaft professor who grades tougher than the others teaching the class at the same school.

    (I just lost 20 minutes of typing my original response to this to Mozilla botching the submission. No bitterness here...)
  • I've never understood what it was that people so clearly despised about standardized testing. Sure, it doesn't neccessarily ascertain the exact value of each and every individual taking the test, but there really is no good means of doing that in a single classroom, let alone nation wide. I've always found that SAT scores, while not neccessarily reflective of classroom grades, do fairly accurately depict the intelligence of test taker.

    There are people who are very smart, but don't do tremendously well in school either because it bores them, or because they simply don't work hard. These people will have bad grades, but are still very intelligent and still can add to your institutes of higher learning. SAT scores, for this type of student, are traditionally quite high. These are the people you want around, even if they have goofed off in the past... the smart ones.

    On the other hand there are people who get tremendously high grades, but are in general incompetent. I know you can all think of one of your friends or associates from high school or college who did extremely well on every test, but was otherwise a goof. Any conversation would leave them confused and befuddled. Even the most simple arguement would quite them with nothing more than a few fading protestations. These people do less well on the SATs... and rightfully so. They may work very hard, but they're not clever.

    I guess it just depends what you consider more important. If you want someone who works hard but is unintelligent, then you go for someone with high grades and a low SAT. If you want someone clever but unmotivated, you choose high SAT but low grades.

    Or you could just compare all available information and choose the best person. Why they don't just do this is beyond me.


  • The people who study and work hard to perform better on the SATs will tend to get better scores on the SATs than those who slacked off. Guess which two skills are extremely important in relation to getting good grades in college? Studying and working hard. In general (always exceptions) people who study and work hard in college make better grades than those who slack off.

    In other words, any old test will do, provided people have to study and work hard to pass it. So why pretend that you are testing something else? We should scrap the Scholastic Aptitude Tests and replace them with the Useless Knowledge Memorization Test.

    Anybody interested in this issue should read Stephen Jay Gould's Mismeasure of Man [wordsworth.com].

  • by JeffL (5070) on Saturday February 17, 2001 @11:47AM (#424237) Homepage
    We don't like the SAT test, since its results disagree with our vision of a fair and perfect world. Therefore, the test is defective and must be eliminated.

    Yes, this is exactly it. These tests, and standards based admissions, and GPAs, and grades themselves all suggest that people are different. Because so many people take literally the statement "all men are created equal" they think that these tests are somehow evil. Of course what "all men are created equal" means, is that all people should be given equal opportunities. Everybody is allowed to go to high school, but some people blow it there (or, through lack of ability, fail to do well), so they are then not given equal access to college. This is how a merit based system (such as our educational process) is supposed to work.

    I am not saying this is a perfect world, of course people are not given equal opportunities, which is the whole point of the civil rights movement. The SATs and other standardized tests do not judge equally across different minority groups, and the reasons for this are not understood. Is it possible to quantify hundreds of years of keeping a group down into a few bonus points on a test?

    Many Americans seem to have a problem with the suggestion that some people are smarter than others, and that some people have a better shot at doing well in society than others. The logical conclusion to this thinking (because we can only make people smarter to a limited degree) is to make everybody dumber (which is much easier than making people smarter).

  • I would agree, except it doesn't look like they have anything to replace it with. Admission boards should try to get as many data points as possible, ie: GPA, SATI, SATII, teacher recommendations, extra-curricular activities, etc. and make their decisions based on all of the above. Most private schools do this (at least, they claim to -- they don't like to talk about what acutally goes on in the admissions process. I suppose that protects them from lawsuits).

    Now, most large public schools have too many applicants and too few resources to actually look at anything other than a few numbers and plug them through. So, if you want to replace one of those numbers (SAT) with something you think is a fairer representation of the elusive quality "is this the kind of student we want here", fine. But I think it is irresponsible to remove one of the few pieces of data they actually have because it isn't perfect.

    On the other hand, I am opposed to ending affirmative action in school admissions for several resons. First, I think it is *critical* that college campuses have racially diverse populations, even IF it means admiting some students who aren't as good. Second, yes current testing systems have a racial bias, which impairs their ability to measure a students ability to succeed in school.

    Finally, that "we need a less numerical and more holistic approach to admissions" is BS. I agree that 3 or 4 numbers isn't enough to base someone's admission on, but holism, in this context, means "We don't know what we want, but 'holistic' sounds PC, and doesn't really commit to anything". And, as I mentioned before, admissions committes at large state schools don't have the resources to do more than look at a few numbers.
  • by DoorFrame (22108) on Saturday February 17, 2001 @11:49AM (#424245) Homepage
    This article refrences the fact that many people consider the SATs to be racist:
    • Dr. Atkinson's decision, which would apply to both in-state and out-of-state students, came several years after a university faculty committee urged that the SAT's be made optional to increase the number of black and Hispanic students gaining admission. Earlier, California had banned the use of race and ethnicity for college admission. Like other school officials around the country Dr. Atkinson has sought to balance the values of diversity and academic quality.

    Why, I wonder, is this considered? What about the SATs make them unbalanced... favored AGAINST minority students? It's not like the math questions involve how much insurance on Bentley's will cost, or finding the average price of Evian water over a three year period. I've always thought that these accusations of standardized testing being racist were unfounded.

    Does anybody out there actually understand why they're often considered racist? I can't think of one solid reason.


  • I would _LOVE_ to see something to come along to break up the ETS monopoly and put them out of buisness.

    I recently had to re-take the GREs (having had my previous scores expire and thus literally deleted from their database system). Despite paying them what I would consider to be a substantial amount of money to take the test, I feel that in all my dealings with them, in person and on the phone, I was talked down with, distrusted, and treated overall with virtually none of the respect which I feel is intrinsic to to dealings with one's _customer_ in a service industry.

    Devaluating their product (and introducing the possibility of competitive services), I feel would be the best step in forcing them to reconsider their role and position in dealing with their assumed captive audience.

  • Guess which two skills are extremely important in relation to getting good grades in college? Studying and working hard.

    That's not my experience. I have a lot of students in and out of my office every day. I've seen a lot of students who who work really hard and devote every second of their day to their courses and I've seen a lot who understand concepts quickly and have real insight. The latter group seems to get better grades and enjoy their University experience a lot more.

    When I hear about people studying for the SATs for half a year, it sounds like cheating to me. I think the universities are more interested in how intelligent a person is, rather than how many facts they can cram into their head and forget the next day.


  • Thinking back to my experience in the Florida public education system and I wonder about some things..

    Why is it that history classes never covered anything after 1945 (i.e. WWII)? All the rest of american history was covered, why not modern history?

    How come economics was not part of the curriculum? I can't even remember it being available at all as an elective much less a manditory course. Seems economics is pretty important to each and every american considing it's the reason we each can put food on the table and roofs over our heads.

    Even basic stuff that we all need to know in the real world was never taught. How to balance a check book? How to budget our money? The implications of credit and savings?

    Perhaps part of the problem is that the whole high-school has now been geared for 'college prep' when reality is that most high school students will not continue on to college.

    My fondest memory of school is being sent to detention in middle school (think ~12-13 y.o.) for reading 1984 rather than paying attention to what was being taught at the time.

    -- Greg
  • Eliminating the SAT is a move of ignorance. Contrary to popular belief, it is not designed to test how much you know or what you learned in high school. The test under discussion here, the SAT I, was designed to predict the taker's GPA in college. It does so remarkably well. Although I lost the notes from a psychology class where the prof went into great depth discussing the SAT's validity, I seem to recall that the correlation between SAT scores and college GPA was something like 0.7 (which is really high)---obviously after some formulas and conversions were applied.

    If we want to discuss tests that test actual academic knowledge, that's what the SAT IIs are for. But that's a whole different issue.

    Oh, and BTW: Stuy doesn't have letter grades or 1-4 scale GPAs. As of the class of 1999 at least, grades were on a scale of 55-100.

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