Pitzer president Laura Skandera Trombley says the SAT is useless in an LA Times op-ed. If this is the best example of the SAT’s bias, the exam should be out of trouble. Trombley critiques an SAT question:
“Aware of the baleful weather predicted by forecasters, we decided the —- would be the best place for our company picnic.
Now, if I had grown up on the East Coast, my immediate choice would be “cafeteria,” as my assumption would be that “baleful weather” would indicate rain or maybe even snow. But in fact, I lived for many years on the western side of the Pacific Coast Highway, so “baleful weather” could indicate high waves „ meaning that my company picnic would be best, and more pleasantly, relocated to a lake.
On the other hand, if I had lived in Iowa (and I did for five years), baleful weather might indicate flooding. Obviously my company picnic would be best held on the roof. What to do? What to choose?
Context: the framework within which we make sense of the world.
Actually, this makes no sense at all, writes Cathy Seipp. “Baleful” means a gloomy expression, and gloomy weather is rainy weather all over the country.
Actually, the SAT question Trombley cites happens to be an example of a perfectly unbiased question, because you don’t need to know the word “baleful” to answer it correctly. (Of course it helps if you aren’t determined, like Trombley apparently is, to think not of horses or even zebras when you hear hoof beats, but unicorns.)
The question’s rather fretful tone, and the information that weather is involved, are all the clues you need to realize that (B) cafeteria is the right answer, because it’s the only choice that’s indoors. You’d realize that even if the question began, “Aware of the zzzyrrk weather prediction by forecasters…”
It’s a logic problem obvious to anyone who’s watched Sesame Street. One of these things is not like the others.
Seipp wonders at Trombley’s trembling in the face of a little weather. Who moves a picnic from the beach to avoid waves? Or picnics on the roof for fear of those Iowa cafeteria floods.
Kimberly Swygert observes that Pitzer’s reliance on high school grades creates winners and losers too.
The problem is not with the measuring system. The problem is that some students who want to go to college are poorly prepared for higher education.
Update: Trombley misstates the SAT gap, notes Eugene Volokh. Whites don’t outscore “non-whites” by 206 points. ÊWhites outscore blacks by that amount. Asian-Americans average 1083, whites 1063, Mexican-Americans 905, Other Hispanics 921 and blacks 857. The white/non-white gap is roughly 113 points, says a Volokh reader.