Monday, October 24, 2011

What Is The Point Of College Entrance Tests?

One might think that the point of such tests would be to determine who the best and brightest are, and to make sure they get educated. One would also be wrong.

Up until some time in the 1990's, the SAT was a good proxy for "intelligence", ill-defined though that term my be. In fact, until fairly recently, Mensa accepted those older SAT scores in place of an IQ test when considering people for membership. ETS changed the SAT in the 90's. I can no longer find a reference on Mensa's web site regarding SAT scores.

But what's the college-related purpose of the SAT? Despite all the sticks and stones thrown at it, it's still a good predictor of freshman-year academic performance at college. Is that information not valuable?

In addition to the SAT or the ACT, there are some specific subject-matter tests that students can take--to demonstrate proficiency, in theory the same way an Advanced Placement test might demonstrate proficiency. Isn't that a good idea, to know how "academically sound" a potential student is? Keep in mind that according to California's Master Plan for Education, the UC system is supposed to take students in the top 10-12% of their high school class. Doesn't it seem that testing is the way to identify those students? UC must not think so:
A major change in freshman admission requirements for the University of California this year was supposed to ease the burden of standardized test-taking for high school seniors and allow more students to apply.

But the new rules have caused widespread confusion and anxiety among students about whether to take the supplemental tests known as SAT subject exams. To boost their chances of UC admission, thousands of high school seniors are taking the subject exams even though the university has dropped them as a requirement, starting with applications for next fall. UC still requires scores from the main SAT test or its rival, the ACT.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not coincidentally, 1/3 of college students need remediation, even at UC campuses:
The percentage of freshmen needing remediation varies considerably across UC campuses. In fall 2009, the unpreparedness rates ranged from a low of 8 percent at UC Berkeley to a high of 64 percent at UC Merced.
Perhaps we need to rethink the purpose of a university education, and also question whether California truly gets value--economic, social, or otherwise--from sending so many unprepared students to college.

1 comment:

mrelliott said...

This isn't about determining someone's readiness for college, or intelligence, or anything education related. It's about money and profit.

They're doing away with 1 SAT exam in favor of SAT course exams--notice the "s" on the end of the word "exam".

ETS just increased their profit margin...end of story.