Re: Interesting piece on the SAT's
I think Franek is basically wrong in regards to the weight of the SAT, but
Jay Mathews had a very fine article in the November issue of The Atlantic on
Freedle's research and what it might mean.
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Subject: [arn-l] Interesting piece on the SAT's
fom the December 17, 2003 edition -
Reveal the racial data on SAT scores
By Mark Franek
PHILADELPHIA - This month, nearly a million high school seniors will put the
finishing touches on their college applications. They will write stellar
essays, garner recommendations from favorite teachers, and purchase new
Pity, most of their efforts are purely cosmetic. From the colleges'
standpoint, what matters most is something still not even a part of the
application: the SAT score.
For many students, the SAT experience is not unlike an arranged marriage,
one that forces students into years of counseling and prep before the big
day. Each new generation of seniors would prefer a divorce from the grueling
test that fails to reflect their entire high school experience, not to
mention important traits like honesty and perseverance. Instead, they get
coached. It should be no surprise that the College Board, which owns and
administers the SAT, would like to see this very profitable relationship
The response to an essay on the SAT's alleged racial bias, which appeared in
the Harvard Educational Review last spring, is a case in point. The author,
Roy Freedle, retired in 1998 from the Educational Testing Service (which
develops the test for the Board) after 31 years. He is not a disgruntled
ex-employee. Mr. Freedle suggests that the SAT could be revised to include a
score that would benefit African-Americans, who seem to do relatively
better, on average, on harder questions. This supplemental score might help
colleges make more informed choices, particularly when dealing with minority
applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The board's response to Freedle was a one-page unsigned article on their
website (www.collegeboard.com). The article called Mr. Freedle's study
flawed, mired in technical problems, and easily explained by students who
The board's disregard for any type of challenge is suspicious. It seems to
believe that the test, and the more than 1.4 million teens who take it
annually, exists in some kind of vacuum where all cultural differences can
be kept constant and all variations in scores explained by chance.
But any high school teacher worth his or her shiny apple will tell you: No
test is completely bias-free, and not all tests are equally fair. That's why
the trend at every high school in the country is to include more assessments
during the course of a year - not fewer - to test and honor multiple
intelligences. The real question is not whether the SAT contains culturally
biased questions, but whether the bias is systematic, persistent, and
Instead of discrediting its critics, the Board should be willing to organize
all of its data into categories of race and socioeconomic background and
show how each group scores on the medium, easy, and hard portions of the
test. Furthermore, information about the race and gender of their current
test-writers should be disclosed.
Next, the board should release the racial breakdown of the exponentially
increasing number of test-takers who are granted testing accommodations on
the SAT. (As of this year, the Board is no longer reporting scores to
colleges with any kind of footnote indicating that the test was taken under
nonstandard testing conditions such as time-and-a-half, or double-time for
students with learning differences.)
This data will show that whites - particularly higher-income whites -
receive testing accommodations on the SAT more than any other group. Why?
Because they can afford expensive testing evaluations. It should be no
surprise that well-educated parents with means are better able to navigate
the board's requirements at their children's high school in order to benefit
from testing accommodations.
Full disclosure of this data is not a national security risk. It will,
however, raise awareness of what areas in administering the SAT need
attention or systematic restructuring.
Finally, the board should stop denying that coaching and expensive courses
either don't help or provide only modest gains to a student's score. Give us
teachers - and the public - a break. There is a reason the board provides
links on its website to order its own practice tests and test-taking tips in
book form or on CD-ROM ($395 for the school edition).
The board is currently working on the new SAT, due out in March 2005. It
knows - though it doesn't want to admit it publicly - that its Goliath has
spawned a multimillion-dollar "beat the test" industry that doesn't help
disadvantaged kids, particularly those in the inner city. Those kids could
tell the Board a thing or two about survival in the concrete jungle. But
they sure won't be tested on it.
. Mark Franek is the dean of students at the William Penn Charter School in
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