SAT Decline?

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March 4, 2017 – MCAT CARS Passage

Question: What is your summary of the author’s main ideas. Post your own answer in the comments before reading those made by others.

In recent years, an increasing numbers of colleges and universities have stopped requiring prospective students to take the SAT. Many argue that the tests are more a measure of the parents’ income and ability to pay for test-prep classes than a students’ potential.

In a 2009 paper for Educational Researcher, Richard C. Atkinson and Saul Geiser looked at the history of the SAT and how it slowly fell from grace.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, the standard admissions test for U.S. colleges was the College Boards. These were curriculum-based tests designed to check whether students’ work in high school had prepared them for college-level material.

In 1926, the Scholastic Aptitude Test was introduced, with a very different goal. Rather than testing students’ mastery of academic material, the SAT promised to assess their aptitude for learning. Stemming from IQ tests used to measure military enlistees’ intelligence during World War I, the SAT rested on the assumption that intelligence was a fixed, inherited attribute.

At the time, that idea was associated with a meritocratic approach toward college admissions. Advocates argued that an aptitude test would find the potential in disadvantaged students who might not have had the chance to excel in the classroom.

Over time, the College Board repeatedly revised the SAT. As the focus on IQ fell out of favor, it was renamed the Scholastic Assessment Test in 1990. In 1996, the name was dropped entirely (today, the SAT doesn’t stand for anything). But Atkinson and Geiser wrote that the point has consistently been to check students’ general analytical abilities as a way of predicting their likelihood of success at college.

A challenge to the SAT as a tool for meritocratic admissions came in the late 1990s, after California eliminated affirmative action in the state university system. University administrators looked at their admissions criteria to try and explain why rates of admission for Latinos and African Americans were disproportionately low. What they found was that SAT scores were actually more closely tied to socioeconomic status than either high school grades or curriculum-based tests like the AP exams. Meanwhile, looking at a database of tests and student performance going back to 1968, they found that the SAT was also somewhat worse than subject tests in predicting student performance.

Atkinson and Geiser argued that it’s time for a shift back to the old notion of admitting students to college based more on their achievements than on supposed measures of their potential. Not only does it seem to be a more accurate kind of assessment, but it also encourages high school students to see their future as something they can control by working hard, rather than a matter of how essentially smart they are.

The shift now taking place at colleges doesn’t address the continuing disparity in students’ educational experiences in the first 13 years of schooling, but it does look like a step in the right direction.

Adapted from jstor

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This was an article on Education.

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Jack Westin
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42 Comments


  1. Once the gold standard for college admission, the SAT has recently been falling out of favor. The test originally was born out of a culture of assuming intelligence, as measured by IQ, was most fixed throughout life and genetically based. Critics cite evidence that scores more strongly associate with socioeconomic background rather than academic potential.

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  2. SAT is not an accurate representation for selecting students for college, as it is based more on the socio-economic status of the family rather than the intelligence, and hard-working capability of the students. So, it should be removed and the students should be admitted to college just based on their high school academic work.

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  3. Shift away from SAT to improve education primarily for disadvantaged folk

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  4. SAT req= declining bc not a good measure of success, more measure of SES
    At/Geis= don’t like SAT

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  5. The author argues that SATs are not a good representation of a student’s success in college but are more linked toward their socioeconomic status. He feels moving away from SATs and using grades and curriculum based tests are better representation of a student’s success.

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  6. use of SAT for college entrance is shifting; author positive about shift

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  7. SAT = test for intelligence = declined + a shift in the right direction; college entrance test = based on achievement not potential

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  8. The SAT has fallen out of favor as the preferred college admissions test. Instead of leveling the playing field the test skews in favor of students from higher socio-economic groups, the opposite of its originally intended purpose.

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  9. MI: SAT = SES, Decline in use not a fan of it

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  10. MIP: SAT =/= student potential or performance (Atkins and Gieser)

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  11. Multiple revision of the SAT made it worst predictor of students success in college which mostly affected disadvantaged students

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  12. author > likes the shift toward eliminating SAT as requirement for college entry; it is better to be based on student achievement than their inherent talent or intelligence

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  13. Sat has been shown to correlate with ses rather than scholastic aptitude and is increasingly seen unfavorably by college admissions.

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  14. MIP: SAT =/= achievement for stud future success (merit), SAT= SES (Atkinson/ Geiser)

    APOV: shift in right direction (positive)

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  15. evolution of SATS and need for change in student evaluations

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  16. SAT decline b/c it correlates to SES rather than likelihood of success (RTA: Atknson & Geiser)
    +ve tone about such shift

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  17. MI: SAT proport to SES=not good test; achiev=better
    tone=neut

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  18. SAT is not a good predictor of a students readiness for college or previous academic success and should be changed. SAT scores match the students socioeconomic status

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  19. SAT= declining usage & changing eval. method + SES-link

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  20. SAT=SES, decline use, not a good predictor

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  21. SE status reflects SAT
    SAT not as important
    SAT represents “fixed intelligence”

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  22. Evolution of SAT, SAT score = tied to socioeconomic status. SAT decline = shift to college admission based on student’s achievements.

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  23. SAT score= social economic status+ shift=students achievement

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  24. SAT scores = innate aptitude + SE status, should focus on achievement instead

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  25. SAT =bad + measure of SES, not ability

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  26. auth critical of SAT, believes test should be based on knowledge, not IQ or SES

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  27. MIP: SAT decreasing= not a good predictor of success in college

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  28. SAT not good measure of college readiness.
    Achievements=controllable>measuring potential w/SAT

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  29. SAT = not student potential
    hard work = college readiness

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  30. SAT performance associates with SES rather than student’s actual potential. A shift looking at students’ achievements = diminishes disparities + right direction

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  31. SAT = less popular
    SAT =/= good predictor

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  32. MIP: SAT decline = measures SES; Before SAT = merit-based
    Tone: Neutral

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  33. MIP: SAT challenged as tool; SAT scores= SES (A&G) =/= performance

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  34. MIP: measuring achievement > potential; tone = neutral

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  35. SAT doesn’t serve its intended purpose to predict students’ performance in college but more related to socioeconomic status of the family.

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  36. MIP: SAT= decreased usefulness + shift towards other methods of evaluation

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