ERIC Number: EJ980725
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Reference Count: N/A
College Admissions: Beyond Conventional Testing
Sternberg, Robert J.
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, v44 n5 p6-13 2012
Standardized admissions tests such as the SAT (originally stood for "Scholastic Aptitude Test") and the ACT measure only a narrow segment of the skills needed to become an active citizen and possibly a leader who makes a positive, meaningful, and enduring difference to the world. The problem with these tests is that they promised, under what have proven to be shaky pretenses, a new social order, but instead they have ended up perpetrating the old one. Prior to their development, college admission, at least to schools of high prestige, was determined largely by socioeconomic status (SES). Standardized tests were designed to replace this fairly rigid social-class system with a meritocratic one. The founders of the testing movement, such as James Conant at Harvard and Henry Chauncey at the Educational Testing Service, had the best of intentions. But there was a fact they could not yet know: Scores on the standardized tests they promoted would end up correlating highly with SES. The standardized college admissions tests originally seemed likely to serve a noble purpose--moving society away from one in which privileges were doled out on the basis of parental wealth and social status and toward a system based on merit. When almost everyone taking the test was white, male, and upper class (or at least upper middle class), perhaps there was a certain logic to this: At that time, most of the variation in test scores would have been a result of differential academic skills (although the tests, even then, would not have tapped much into leadership skills). But today, a much broader population of students takes the standardized tests, and much of the variation in their performance reflects differing levels of opportunity. The author contends that this is not fair or good in a society that is increasingly polarized socioeconomically. But unless there is economic (or legal) pressure on the testing companies, they are unlikely to change when, financially, they are playing a winning game.
Descriptors: College Admission, College Entrance Examinations, Standardized Tests, Academic Aptitude, Test Validity, Correlation, Socioeconomic Status, Success, Measures (Individuals), Role of Education, Citizen Participation
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: ACT Assessment; SAT (College Admission Test)