Should we get rid of the SAT? (part 1)

Since I earn my living preparing kids for the SAT and ACT, what do you think I would say?! 🙂 But, seriously folks, while there have been calls for ditching standardized tests, let’s think about what that would look like:

The original idea behind these tests was to give everyone a level playing field. That’s still a good idea. Do kids from middle-and upper-class homes have a competitive advantage over kids from low-income households? Yes, I believe that they do. I mean, if you don’t have to worry about the basic necessities of life, you can concentrate more on your studies. And that’s a heckuva an advantage. Furthermore, if you can pay someone like me to help you prepare for the SAT and ACT, that’s a big advantage, too.

Leveling the field for poorer kids will always be tough. But the SAT has just instituted an ‘adversity score’ that will hopefully reflect how much a student’s environment hurts their academic chances of success. Will it work? I honestly don’t know, but it’s worth a shot. Also, for the past few years the SAT people have offered free test prep through Khan Academy which, though it doesn’t help my business, is a very good thing. For my part… I give scholarships to kids who are doing very well in school but are financially strapped. These aren’t perfect solutions, but it’s a start.

But helping kids to prepare for the SAT and ACT isn’t the same as eliminating the tests themselves. It’s true that more and more schools are choosing to be “test optional,” which means that students can report their test scores–or not. That’s fine for a lot of people but students who get good scores will still want to report them because they correlate well with reasoning ability and general IQ level. Will a person with a high IQ necessarily be more successful than a person with a lower one? Of course not. For my money, persistence (“want-to”) will always be the most important factor in determining a person’s success in their chosen field.

But mental toughness is much harder to measure than the ability to reasoning your way through reading passages and math problems. Colleges can get some indication of students’ pro-activeness from their extracurriculars… but grades aren’t any better than the SAT/ACT when it comes to telling colleges who’s a hard worker and who isn’t.