This will be on the test – May 19 to June 1

Hi ya’ll! Hope everyone had a refreshing Memorial Day holiday last week! Now that schools are letting out and the morning commute is less cluttered with buses, let’s talk about some of the testing-related events from the last two weeks…

The big national news – CNN reports that more colleges are moving towards making the SAT and ACT optional for admission. I say, good for them. It’ll be interesting to see whether schools such as Wake Forest that want to increase their “socioeconomic, racial and ethnic diversity” will get students of high caliber and whether those students will do well in college. One caveat – every school that is now announcing the SATs are optional should be required to report GPA and graduation rates — broken down by racial and socioeconomic variables, of course — four and six years from now. After all, that’s the only hope we’ll have for seeing if colleges are doing this because they truly believe that there are talented students out there who have been blocked solely by the SAT — or if they just want to make their freshmen classes more diverse, regardless of the graduation rates of those who couldn’t handle the test. Be interesting to see if we could gather some measure of whether grade inflation increased after this experiment in college admissions, too.

SC’s dismissal of the PACT is almost a “done deal.” Be interesting to see what the new, more “diagnostic” exams look like.

The state of Georgia got ugly news this week – disappointing results on the new, tougher math portion of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). Forty percent of the state’s eighth-graders failed the exam, and while some wring their hands in despair, others applaud the new, more challenging approach. Check out pages 45-50 here to see if you’re smarter than an eighth-grader. I say the material does look pretty challenging.

Meanwhile, over in Texas, 95% of their eighth-graders passed the state reading exam. The full set of Spring 2007 results are here. Even the migrant and ESL numbers don’t look that bad. For some context, here is the Grade 8 Information Booklet. An older scoring rubric is here, but that doesn’t provide information on where the standard is set.

In the, “the heck?” file goes this story. It’s hard to believe that a printer hired to produce high-stakes exams would make this big of a boo-boo. It’s even harder to believe that only 5% of the exam scores were affected (hat tip: Ben C.).

ETS is getting fancy with the GRE, adding a component called “Personal Potential Index” that is intended to measure ability in six new areas: ” knowledge and creativity, communication skills, teamwork, planning and organization, ethics and integrity, and resilience.” The author notes that, rather than soothing the testing critics, this effort might scare them even further. What won’t ETS try to measure in the future? Me, I’m tickled to hear this, as long as ETS is going to publish the results and provide some data on the reliability and various validities of these scores. I think this sounds like great fun. Then again, I’m not the one who has to pay an extra $15 for this index. (Note: Perhaps this report should be taken with a grain of salt, as no information about this is yet up on the ETS/GRE webpage.)

Finally, I was wondering when standardized tests would enter the 2008 presidential race. I wonder no more.


  1. Regarding the Georgia math standards: they’re very challenging. The questions that come to me are:

    1) when were they passed?
    2) how much lead time did schools have to prepare to meet the new standards?
    3) Preparing students in 8th grade requires significant preparation in lower grades; do this years scores reflect preparation for earlier standards?

  2. Doing away with the SAT/ACT is absurd. Grades don’t predict the need for remediation–although zipcodes might.

  3. Mike,

    I think it’s the first year of implementation for the new math standards in Georgia so the 8th grade teachers were on their own without the previous preparation.

    I think anyone in the know in Georgia kind of expected these results.

  4. Cal said, “Doing away with the SAT/ACT is absurd. Grades don’t predict the need for remediation–although zipcodes might.”

    Don’t worry, Cal. The colleges will hide the need for remediation and the negative effects of doing away with the SAT/ACT through grade inflation. This is how they have been doing it for years anyway.

  5. The SAT allows students nation-wide to be compared in a standardized fashion. Grades/recommendations are only parlty reflective of a students performance; they vary greatly according to the difficulty of the school. In the early 1990s,parents were rushing children to suburban schools with the highest test scores and the best teachers with their eyes on America’s best colleges. The trend has not exactly reversed, but now some parents are opting for a different tactic- pushing kids to worse school districts where perhaps the top 200 students in a grade attain a straight-A report card and becoming valedictorian is not very competitive.This is in contrast to the most competitive high schools where even the top 5 are not straight-Aers and teachers are much more critical of their students.Yet when these two schools send in their school profiles they could both be deemed “highly competitive” and are inaccurately put on an equal footing. Perhaps SAT marks have a correlation with the number of prep books bought, but since when is plenty of preparation not rewarded or disregarded. Colleges should accept the best students with the best education regardless of socio-economic class. The only other form of across the nation comparison are AP scores which are optional in nearly every college application.

  6. SuperSub says:

    Anon – or they’ll simply expand their liberal arts majors, where typical assignments include coloring posters and doing 2-page book reports.

  7. NDC, that’s what I figured.

    SuperSub, you may be describing your alma mater, but you sure aren’t describing a good college.

  8. Super Sub said, “or they’ll simply expand their liberal arts majors, where typical assignments include coloring posters and doing 2-page book reports.”

    Mike said, “SuperSub, you may be describing your alma mater, but you sure aren’t describing a good college.”

    Mike, Super Sub is describing what goes on in the majority of colleges in liberal arts majors. Most of the liberal arts have given up on the notion of educating and instead seek to inculcate a certain set of beliefs and values in students. Educating for truth? Fuhgetaboutit in all but a very few GOOD colleges.

  9. Uh, no. The majority of liberal arts programs do not typically include coloring posters and two page book reports.

    There are weaknesses in instruction in the liberal arts that invite such hyperbole, but you shouldn’t confuse it with reality.

  10. How do colleges/universities that don’t require ACT/SAT scores develop the knowledge of each individual high school’s rigor, so that it’s possible to know what an applicant’s high school record really means?
    I could see this working for local/regional colleges/universities, but not national ones, unless the accrediation agencies start to measure and communicate what each individual course in each high school represents.