Editorial: Standard debating for the SAT

Mar. 06, 2014 @ 11:45 PM

Wednesday’s announcement by the College Board has brought a mixture of reactions for its SAT Reasoning Test.

The SAT will change in 2016, in time for this year’s freshman class. The impact won’t be measured with any integrity for several years.

Like other elements of education that include competition, the SAT has long run against the ACT, which recently became the more popular entrance examination. Getting a look and feel similar to the ACT, the changes include an optional essay rather than mandatory, and elimination of punishment in scoring for wrong answers.

Previously, not answering was more advantageous than trying and instead getting a wrong answer.

The score, if no essay is taken, reverts to a 1,600-point scale.

FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, immediately responded promoting test-optional admissions. It also declared the SAT remains flawed in forecasting college success accurately, assessing low-income students more fairly and being any less susceptible to commercial coaching courses favoring students from wealthier families.

FairTest points out 100 colleges and universities have joined the test-optional admission ranks since 2005. On a list of 800 it provided, North Carolina has 14. They include Apex School of Theology, Art Institute of Charlotte, Barber-Scotia, Belmont Abbey, Bennett, Carolina Christian, Catawba, College for Lifelong Learning, Guilford, John Wesley, Laurel, Lees-McRae, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Wake Forest.

Testing should evolve over time. In that regard, the updates deserve praise.

We must also remember school is now taught in something of a testing frenzy, intentionally measuring educators as much or more than the students. That can be an obstacle to educating students.

We believe that has impacted the SAT changes, particularly related to students’ abilities in expression. Vocabulary words will not be as difficult in addition to the optional essay. We do not favor that regression.

On the positive, analysis is strengthened in the new test and computers will be used.

Colleges and universities need measurements. Standardized testing has always been debated. Admissions offices have choices for assessing applicants and students have choices for which colleges will judge their application.

Grades and academic rigor already weighed more heavily with the majority of admissions offices than did standardized tests. On that, there should be no choice.