SAT change better for students

SAT change better for students

Kevin Griffin

Few tests engender frustration in students, teachers and parents the way the SAT does.

High school students are frequently reminded of the importance of this test to their life prospects. The problem with this emphasis on the SAT is that the test has shown to be flawed in numerous ways.

Hoping to improve the test, the College Board has decided to make several changes to the SAT that will take effect in 2016. The now mandatory essay section will become optional, the math sections will focus on a narrower set of skills and vocabulary on the exam will be altered to reflect practical understanding of terms one will see in college, according to the College Board.

These changes will not solve the multiple problems with the SAT or standardized testing, but they are a modest improvement over the status quo.

For a long time, the test has been criticized for cultural bias, a claim corroborated by a 2010 Harvard Educational Review study. Additionally, the test is not a good predictor of college performance, with those who submit test scores performing essentially the same in college as those who do not submit, according to a February 2014 study of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling.

Les Perelman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology director of undergraduate writing, found in 2005 that longer essays written on test scored higher than shorter ones, regardless of quality, according to the New York Times.

A test that has been given so much influence over student’s future should at least reflect the skills and reasoning ability that one will have to use in college, as well as later in life.
With these changes, the College Board is making a move in that direction.

The changes to the essay and vocabulary content of the test illustrate some of the ways the new test is improving for the better. Though it will be optional, the new essay requires students to respond to a passage by analyzing the arguments made in the selection.

This is a better exercise in engaging students’ critical faculties than the current essay setup.
By no means are all the problems with the SAT solved, and I would prefer that the College Board continue to make even more changes.

Still, the proposed changes do make some headway in making the test more useful to the students for whom it has become so important.

Kevin Griffin, a sophomore journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.