Mallard Fillmore, from yesterday:

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From what little I've read about the changes, there are some positive ones as well.  Still, the move to make the test more aligned with what students are actually learning, and to what they will likely encounter in general life, is part of a disturbing trend.  To my mind, the Scholastic Aptitude Test is only useful if it measures what is not taught in school, nor in "test-prep" courses.  Otherwise, it's just another achievement test.  A mastery of so-called arcane vocabulary is an indicator of the extent and quality of a student's outside reading.  Success in the analogy section, which to my chagrin was dropped long ago, was an indicator of a certain kind of mental agility.  A widely-read, mentally agile person is more likely to be successful in college, hence the putative value of the test.

Granted, an exam based so strongly on the English language puts foreign students, and those from difficult backgrounds, at a disadvantage, but that's only an argument for why the SAT should be but one part of many criteria for college acceptance, not for altering the test itself.

Except for a short lesson in proper test-taking strategies and the specific structure of the exam, I'm of the opinion that test-prep courses simply undermine the purpose of the test.  Sorry for pulling the "old" card, but in my day we went into the SAT cold, knowing that the best preparation was years of good habits.  In fact, we were told that it was impossible to study for such an exam!  Easier all around....

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 8:16 am | Edit
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. . . says the person who is a self-professed good test taker. Those of us who are test dumb need a little test prep just to show what we know. The bigger question is, why a test at all? People applying to college should already have some real and individual acheivements to show what they're interested in and how they can work. That is, if they weren't so busy doing schoolwork . . .



Posted by Janet on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 10:07 am

Note that I did allow for some prep in test-taking strategies. It's cramming for content I have a problem with.

You are right, of course. But testing is so much easier in a society that seems bent on not allowing for judgement calls in decision-making. If you have the right paper trail, you reduce your fear of lawsuits.



Posted by SursumCorda on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 10:39 am

Tom took the SAT a couple of weeks ago and will get his results later this week. He did not do any prep. I am against prep other than, as you mention, for learning test-taking strategies. I just feel that as an aptitude test, you can either answer the questions or you can't. You may get some small boost from test prep, but not enough to warrant the effort and expense.

Also, by the time the kids take the SAT, they have taken the pSAT twice. I would think that would give a good indication of how you will do on the SAT and you can decide whether to prep based on that.

We are just beginning the college search process, but it seems there are a lot of colleges (and good ones, too) that do not require the SAT/ACT.

"People applying to college should already have some real and individual acheivements to show what they're interested in and how they can work. That is, if they weren't so busy doing schoolwork . . ." While I generally agree with this, there are also kids who may have an interest, but don't really have anything to show for it. Tom is focused on creative writing and has an interest in board game design, but he pursues those for his own satisfaction, not for producing something that he will be able to show to a prospective college. (Feel a parent's angst here). Tom's schoolwork (and hopefully the SAT's) are his strengths in terms of college apps.

I am not sure that David is in total agreement with me on the prep, so he will have to weigh in.

Sarah



Posted by dstb on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 1:56 pm

While I can understand that preparing for the test may be against the purpose of the test, my worry is that you are competing against others who do prepare by memorizing the vocabulary and working with experts to make sure the appropriate math is well known. If Tom had done some sample tests and learned a pattern to the math that he didn't know, then he could have worked on making sure he learned those subjects.

Hopefully his SAT score will be good enough to get him past any SAT screening that is done, but as Sarah points out, if his SAT is going to be one of his strengths, why not do some preparing to make sure that it is one of his strengths.

David



Posted by dstb on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 9:20 pm

"Tom is focused on creative writing and has an interest in board game design, but he pursues those for his own satisfaction, not for producing something that he will be able to show to a prospective college. (Feel a parent's angst here)."

And a student's angst as well! The race for college points also made me sick. As David pointed out, if you're competing against people who are set on playing the game, you're at a real disadvantage. Those who spend their time maximizing their paper qualifications with meaningless leadership positions, volunteer hours that can be signed off, easy A's and the like will doubtless have a shinier college application than the child who spends his free hours pursuing an authentic interest.

Go Tom, that he holds true! And go Tom's parents for encouraging it. I pity the student with interests, but such pressure to perform he can never persue them.

No, my complaint is against the colleges that use such measures to pick their student body. Any college not welling to look at the individual accomplishments that come out of authentic interest is not worthy of having Tom as a student.

Of course, I know it's much, much harder to find students that way, but isn't it getting just as hard with everyone playing the system? What do leadership positions mean these days? Do lots of volunteer hours mean a student will be willing to help a struggling peer? What kid would put "party" on his application essay, but how many find that a main reason for going to college? The whole thing is messed up, but that doesn't mean you can't get a good education - you just have to piece it together yourself. Good luck to Tom. I know he can do it.



Posted by Janet on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 8:22 am

"Any college not welling to look at the individual accomplishments that come out of authentic interest is not worthy of having Tom as a student." AMEN! Of course, that's easy for me to say in my position, and hard to put into practice.



Posted by SursumCorda on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 8:52 am

For what it's worth, I'm not saying that in today's climate it might not be prudent for an individual to do some specific SAT preparation, especially someone who has been homeschooled and not subjected to frequent standardized tests for most of his life. All this cramming has devalued the test, but students mostly still have to play the hand they're dealt. Still, I would hope a little would go a long way -- as you said, to reveal weaknesses that can be strengthened.



Posted by SursumCorda on Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 6:45 am