SAT Scores Hit a Low Point, but Test Maker Has a Solution
SAT scores are the lowest they've been in a decade, so we're making the test easier to take. What does that say about our data-obsessed culture?
This year, SAT scores are the lowest they have been in a decade. As a result, the test makers are making the essay optional, eliminating “obscure” vocabulary words, and no longer penalizing guessing. In effect, they are making the test easier to take in order to induce higher scores. Cyndie Schmeiser of College Board (which owns the SATs), believes that as a result of these changes, they will “deliver opportunities” for success in “college and careers.” But what do the lower test scores actually indicate, and what are the implications of making the test easier?
There is an absurdity in assuming that a test could indicate college readiness. College requires critical and abstract thinking and creative problem-solving abilities, which are more about how you think than how you memorize facts. Out of the three categories tested on the SAT, the lowest scores were on the writing portion. The irony is that the skills one uses when writing are actually more indicative of college readiness than skills used in the other portions. By making this section optional, we are reinforcing the idea that thinking is less important than knowing the answer.
There is an absurdity in assuming that a test could indicate college readiness.
As reported in the 2009 film Race to Nowhere (now on Netflix), many University of California and California State students are asked to take remedial classes either before entering college or in their freshmen year. While the SAT aims to assess college readiness, it is apparently falling short of that goal. Many of the UC and Cal State students are the best and brightest in their high school, and perform well on the standardized tests.
If performing well on the SAT indicates preparedness for college, then why are so many students going to college unprepared to think for themselves? What do you do when you are asked to solve a problem in math or science, or asked to analyze information in literature, economics, or politics, but don't know how? The SAT scores are lower, so we make the test easier, so we can show higher scores, so we can get kids into college, and when we finally get the kids to college, they are (for the most part) caustically unprepared.
We live in a culture that doesn’t recognize that there are other forms of intelligence than those we currently test.
I never liked tests. I don’t test well. I don’t like sitting in a room and filling in bubbles and having someone assess my intelligence through my ability to answer questions in a way that they find correct. I spent my time in high school less concerned with playing the game, and spent more time reading, thinking, creating, and staying informed on current events (I’m still the only person I know that subscribed to Time and Newsweek at age 15).
As a result, I felt more prepared for college work than some of my peers that performed better on the SATs. We live in a culture that doesn’t recognize that there are other forms of intelligence than those we currently test, and incorrectly assumes that there is a way to test intelligence and that such tests indicate a preparedness for college and the real world.
How do we prepare high school kids for college? Our overreliance on data isn’t going to help, but what is? It’s a multi-faceted problem with no simple solution. There are some top colleges that don’t require SAT scores, or otherwise place little emphasis on them. This is an encouraging trend, and may have a ripple effect among high schools and other colleges. The more emphasis we place on learning and less we place on data, the better thinkers that will emerge. Information is power, but critical thinking is everything.
PHOTO CREDIT: iStock
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- Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
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Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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