Tuesday, May 27, 2008

SAT: Biased and useless?

Wake Forest University is the first small, private, academically elite university in the nation to not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT (American College Test) scores.

Why? Standardized tests, especially the SAT, are biased. They favor wealthy, white students and tend to keep out lower income and African-American students who perform well academically.
Here’s what Wake Forest associate professor of sociology Joseph Soares said:
“It’s a rotten predictor of college grades. It’s a very reliable predicator
of family income. If you are picking students from the higher end of the SAT
Bell curve you are overwhelmingly picking students from economically
privileged
backgrounds.”
Researchers and advocates such as FairTest have been saying the test is biased and of limited value for years, but for Wake Forest to take this step is big. Dissing the SAT can change the ground rules for who goes to college where.
Will this dumb down higher education? Or should other universities such as UNC Chapel Hill, Duke and UNC Charlotte follow Wake’s lead and toss tests that have been under fire for decades?

3 comments:

Brian said...

Your assertion in the blog that "Wake Forest University is the first small, private, academically elite university in the nation to not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT (American College Test) scores" is contradicted by the original article:

"There is a growing movement of colleges that de-emphasize the test. About 760 schools don't require the SAT or ACT, says FairTest, a Cambridge, Mass.-based watchdog organization that advocates for alternatives. In recent years, highly regarded liberal arts colleges in the Northeast have joined the trend.

"But Wake Forest's decision is significant because of its reputation and its location in the Southeast, where fewer colleges have dropped the test requirement, said Robert Schaeffer, public education director at FairTest."

Axelrod said...

Taking this step to eliminate objective criteria also gives Wake Forest much more power in making subjective decisions on which applicants to admit or not.

Those highly regarded liberal arts colleges in the Northeast do this in order to weed out students that might not get along with the faculty's political slant. I wonder what Wake's motivation really is?

chrlt37 said...

I wholeheartedly disagree. Perhaps there is some bias, but I personally have witnessed a lot of kids with good grades and lousy SAT scores who simply couldn't handle college-level work. They got the good grades in elementary, middle and high school because they "participated", “completed the homework”, "had a good attitude", etc. However, although those are good traits, it doesn't mean they have the aptitude or natural ability to succeed in college. I honestly think (at least in my experience) that the SAT is a better indicator of raw intelligence and intellectual ability than grades are. I think the movement away from the SAT and other similar tests is largely the result of too many people complaining that their children are “poor test takers”. Well, in my experience, most “poor test takers” do poorly on standardized tests because they simply don’t understand the material and/or the concepts – and their test scores accurately reflect that, where their grades may or may not. In fact, in some school systems in the U.S. a movement is afoot to ensure that children's grades reflect what they KNOW or have ACTUALLY LEARNED, vs. getting extra points for participation, homework completion, attitude, and the like and I agree with that.