Monday, August 09, 2004

An Old Whine in a New Editorial

Now my local rag editorializes about the new SAT, in which the old "verbal" section "will be longer and count twice as much, upping a perfect score to 2400. The most significant change will be the addition of a 25-minute essay, previously used on the SAT II Writing subject test." That's bad news to the egalitarian editorialist, who makes these points (my comments are interspersed in brackets):
...Most universities already require essays on the application for admission. [But those essays aren't written against the clock under the eye of a proctor.] Adding the essay to the SAT significantly weights the process toward strong writers, and against those for whom English is a second language. [So what? The purpose of the SAT is to determine who has the skills required to do well in college. Command of English is one of those skills.] And it doesn't help raise the scores for African Americans, who on average scored 80 points lower than white students on the SAT II Writing subject test, on which the essay section is based. [See previous comment.]

While it is important for students to be able to write well, the essay component is a poor gauge of how students will perform in college. They will rarely be in a situation in which they will have to put together an unresearched page-and-a-half essay in 25 minutes.... [But it's a gauge of quickly they can marshal their thoughts and how coherently they can put those thoughts on paper. Therefore, it complements the multiple-choice portions of the SAT as a test of intelligence and communication skill.]

The College Board is encouraging students to take both versions, which can be expensive and time-consuming....

The new version of the SAT has the same problems as the old. With the addition of an essay component, it will be more subjective and unfair, widening the gap between wealthy and poor students, whites and minorities.... [Actually, it will be more comprehensive than the old SAT, which is a plus. The purpose of the SAT is to weed out those who are unfit to clutter the halls of ivy, not to assign handicaps based on wealth and race.]