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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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We should have just SAT on it
Jonathan Pait
August 29, 2001

The Greenville News shows that 150 students at Bob Jones Academy scored 22.8 on the ACT. The College Board says that equals 1020 on the SAT. You arrive at this by dividing the actual score by the total possible score: 22.8/36 = .63 and 1020/1600 = .63. Now, in 1986 I scored 1450 on the SAT and a 26 on the ACT: 1450/1600 = .90 and 26/36 = .72. Now, I know that is anecdotal, but the comparison of scores is not so cut and dry.

Comparing these tests as apples and apples is disingenuous. Here is the point, these tests are BIG business and The College Board, Inc. is directly in competition with ACT, Inc. The College Board loves all the stock that is being placed in their tests. Think of all the money they make on people who will take the PSAT multiple times to do well on their test.

So, what is the difference? To put it simply, the ACT is a test to find out what you know. The SAT is a test to find out how you learn. The idea behind the SAT is to see how well you are prepared mentally to deal with the college learning environment. It focuses on reasoning and not so much on the retention of facts.

The SAT has become so much more than a tool to place young people in the appropriate institution of higher learning. It has become the measuring stick of the job our schools are doing teaching our children. However, is this a fair and accurate measurement?

One of the major problems with the fixation on the SAT (or any other test) as a measurement is the fact that it leads to the process of “teaching to the test." In today's The Greenville News we read that Southside High School “has put the SAT front-and-center in nearly every class.” Even back in the mid-eighties when I was preparing for college we spent hours prepping. I know that my high school administration (by the way, it was a religious private school) cared about me getting into a good college, but there was also the matter of school pride.

All this leads to the question, “Do we really want to educate our students, or do we want to impress people with how well our students do on the SAT?” I remember classmates who took the PSAT numerous times in preparation for the SAT. Did those students do better? Yes. Does that mean that their school did a good job teaching them what schools are supposed to teach? No.

Once again, our teachers are being hamstrung with extraneous concerns. Teach the basics folks! It is time we returned to teaching our children how to read, write and perform basic math skills. Forget about “problem solving and conflict resolution.” Throw out “earth sciences” that basically do nothing but indoctrinate our children with socially liberal ideals. Get rid of all the worthless reports that teachers have to fill out in order to make sure schools are meeting all the politically correct mandates of the Department of Education.

Don’t get me wrong. Accountability is a good thing. However, is all this testing necessary? The grades the children receive from the high school should be their credentials for entrance to college. Of course, that presupposes that an “A” is really an “A” and an “F” is really an “F.” Oh, don’t forget, it also means that we would put the big business of standardized testing out of business.

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