Abolishing the SAT

Abolish the SAT and use achievement tests (SAT IIs) instead, argues Charles Murray of American Enterprise Institute in The American. The SAT Is aren’t anywhere as class biased as people think, writes Murray, but the perception of bias discourages poor kids who can’t afford coaching. Achievement tests are just as good at predicting college performance and require students to study academic subjects, not mind games.

Now, the widespread belief is that the system is rigged, and the SAT is a major reason for that belief. The most immediate effect of getting rid of the SAT is to remove an extremely large and bright red herring. But there are more good effects.

. . . The substitution of achievement tests for the SAT will put a spotlight on the quality of the local high school’s curriculum. If achievement test scores are getting all of the parents’ attention in the college admissions process, the courses that prepare for those achievement tests will get more of their attention as well, and the pressure for those courses to improve will increase.

When it was first pioneered, the SAT was supposed to recognize the academic merits of students from obscure high schools and obscure families, identifying diamonds in the rough. Now it’s seen as ratifying the academic superiority of the children of the highly educated.

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  1. Nels Nelson says:

    The underlying assumption through the article is that we’re a race of morons, but I suppose Murray’s the one with the data on this.

    Too bad getting kids to eat spinach isn’t as easy as renaming it ‘cake’.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    The system is rigged. That’s why you want to be a rigger, not a riggee.

  3. greifer says:

    The part that I find so bizarre is that his real argument is that the SAT score is something we all categorize ourselves by, and that’s creating a smug elite. For THIS we should abolish it? The guy who single handedly, if unintentionally did more to popularize the IQ test, has decided that knowing if you’re elite or not is a bad thing?

    It’s absurd. Should we abolish IQ tests too? Does somehow not calling the cognitive elite the cognitive elite going to make them disappear into the woodwork? Nope. They’ll still be the elite. And if you get rid of the SAT I, then we’ll just all remember our SAT II scores as proxy.

  4. It amazes me that Murray manages to reach the conclusions he reaches. If anything, the evidence he lays out provides an argument for keeping the SAT and abolishing GPA, not the other way around.

  5. As a teacher who does SAT Prep workshops for other teachers, I believe the SAT is a valid test for what it tests – logical reasoning. I see so many kids in school who make marginal grades and score well on the SAT, all because they are bored out of their minds. Many of these kids go on to college, where they are challenged and do well. No matter what test we base college admissions on, the upper class will hire tutors to help their kids do well, and there will be score discrepancies between the classes and races. Even if a kid gets less than a stellar education, the SAT can acknowledge the potential in these kids and show a college admission committee that they may truly have “a diamond in the rough.”

  6. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Perhaps this way he can toss all the old texts in his classes and require purchase of [his]] new texts.