Friday, November 2, 2012

SAT Tests Receive Massive Overhaul to Better Assess College Readiness

SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Last week, Microsoft announced the official release of Windows 8, which promised the most dramatic redesign of a familiar American institution in decades. As if to follow suit Friday, representatives from the SAT program unveiled an unprecedented overhaul to one of the nation's most entrenched, and dreaded, educational rites of passage. Nearly all four-year universities today require entrance exams such as the SAT prior to enrollment. The purpose of these tests, according to their creators and proponents, is to measure a prospective student's preparedness for college. "Right now, the best gauge of a student's ability to complete college is financial readiness," said Prudence Lehrer, a representative from the College Board. "Kids and their parents must demonstrate their commitment to giving away a small fortune with no promise of anything in return as a result of the degree. So, we've updated our tests to accommodate the educational demands of this dynamic time."

Since 1926 -- when the test was first developed, published and scored by the Educational Testing Service -- the SATs have helped college administrators assess the readiness of white, middle-class pupils for higher education, though many admissions counselors defend the test as equally important in evaluating students from more diverse cultural and economic backgrounds.

"The ability of non-Caucasians to recognize the correct answers to analogies such as 'runner : marathon = oarsmen : regatta' assures them a place in the university by officials seeking superior candidates to meet their diversity quotas," said Miles Roycely, a former executive with the SAT program.

Lehrer, however, says none of that matters these days.

"Academics, schmacademics," she quipped. "You'd be surprised to learn that the most promising scholars, academically, are those in desperate need of financial aid. Some don't even finish their programs. The reality is that graduating college means paying the bill. If you can't settle your check at a restaurant, you'll end up cleaning dishes. And if you can't pay for an advanced degree, the same fate awaits you."

In the new model, gone are analogies, algebra and reading comprehension questions. Also done away with are the instant 200 points and the ability to have unanswered questions factored out of the scoring.

"Every question must be answered correctly," Lehrer explained. "But, and this is huge, students will now be allowed to have assistance during the test."

In fact, the student's parents or guardians are required to participate. The family's personal accountant or banking representatives are strongly encouraged to attend, as well.

"The new SATs are mostly credit history questionnaires, loan applications, financial reference checks and a long series of tax and bank account forms," said Lehrer. "The ability to complete these documents accurately will demonstrate the student's potential to finish college and earn a degree. But as with the traditional SATs, a low score would identify students at high risk for failure. We truly believe this new iteration of the SATs to be more accurate, more effective, more relevant and less rigorous for the students."

(c) 2012. See disclaimers.