ERIC Number: EJ847409
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jun-12
Reference Count: N/A
Two Professors Retake the SAT: Is It a Good Test?
Harper, Christopher; Vanderbei, Robert J.
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n39 pA30-31 Jun 2009
In this article, two professors retake the college-entrance exam and arrive at very different conclusions about its performance. Even though Christopher Harper has worked as a college professor for 15 years, he decided last winter to take the SAT and ACT examinations that his students needed to enter the institution where he teaches, Temple University. Why? After nearly a year of preparing his daughter for the examinations, he started to wonder if the existing tests actually provided a good guide to assess knowledge. A commission created by the National Association for College Admission Counseling recommended last September that colleges and universities move away from their reliance on the scores. The commission released its critique after evaluating the effectiveness or lack thereof of standardized tests for more than a year. After taking both tests, Harper couldn't agree more with the commission's recommendations. He found that the tests emphasized speed and stamina over knowledge, and they failed to provide an adequate measure of what a student might actually understand. After years of teaching, as well as writing and editing scores of research papers and books, Robert J. Vanderbei, on the other hand, recently began to wonder if his SAT scores would be good enough to get into Princeton University, where he is now a faculty member. Based on his publication record and citations thereof, and his modest successes in the classroom, he thinks it is fair to say that the Princeton administration does not regret hiring him and promoting him to full professor. But if he was to apply to attend Princeton today, would he get in? His score after the retake is probably borderline according to the university's admissions standards. However, Vanderbei thinks the SAT itself does a fine job at what it sets out to do. The problem is that educators have gotten smart--in addition to educating, they teach to the test. That skews things; some school systems rightly shun that idea of teaching whereas others embrace it. Furthermore, the College Board itself embraces the notion of teaching to the test, evidenced by the fact that it encourages students to take practice tests and even the full SAT multiple times. If secondary-school educators could be kept in the dark about the content of the exam, and if all students were to take the test cold, he is sure the SAT would provide valuable information to college admissions offices.
Descriptors: Standardized Tests, College Admission, Admission Criteria, Test Validity, Predictive Validity, Teacher Attitudes, Replication (Evaluation)
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: http://chronicle.com/
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: High Schools; Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: SAT (College Admission Test)