Tuesday, August 29, 2006

nothing would make me happier than if they abolished it

The data for the first administrations of the new SAT show that students have posted the lowest average scores since 2002.

Several people interviewed in the New York Times article, mostly College Board officials, insist that the now three-hour-and-forty-five-minute testing time -- not counting all the filling out of personal information before and after -- has no impact on the plummeting scores. According to them, the downward trend in the data is due solely to the lack of students taking the test multiple times (since the new exam format has not been adminstered enough times for most students to have had the time to sit for two or three different test dates).

Having witnessed test-taking in person, though, I would beg to differ, as does the official Kaplan representative:

"Seppy Basili, senior vice president at Kaplan Inc., the education and test preparation company, said the new SAT test undoubtedly affected scores, because students were less familiar with it and because fewer students repeated it. But he said he thought the length played a greater role than the College Board acknowledged."

Yeah, Seppy, you tell 'em. Because I can tell you, from personal experience -- criminy, it's hard enough to sit through proctoring the damn thing without wanting to gouge your brain out of your skull to alleviate the tedium. I can only imagine how much less appealing it is when you have to actually answer the questions.

In a country without a standardized curriculum, there can be no such thing as an accurate standardized test. (For example, this year's ACT scores a record high for all years since 1991, in part because many students jumped ship from the SAT and took the ACT instead.) Testing may keep me employed, but I'm tired of watching bright, personable, capable kids sink under the weight of this monster. Seriously, folks -- when the putative college entrance exam is longer than the GRE or the GMAT and about the same length as the LSAT, something's gotta give.

For once and for all, College Board: Teenagers are not adults, no matter how much they argue to the contrary. Playing to their weaknesses, most notably sitting still for an extended period of time taking a test unlike anything a teacher ever actually sets them in the classroom, is not going to help any college put together its best possible freshman class.

To all my students out there (they don't read this, so I'm safe): Chin up! And to all those College Board loonies: You could make a lot of money hiring me -- or, at least, I could make a lot of money with you hiring me -- to revamp this thing so it actually works. I'm just sayin'.

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