Our Opinion: Testing backlash puts necessary focus on SAT

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The growing backlash against standardized testing in schools is impacting that old warhorse the SAT. That challenge is welcome and overdue.

A number of private colleges have abandoned a test designed to predict college success in recent years, but significantly, two Massachusetts public schools, UMass-Lowell and Salem State University, abandoned it this fall. "We were turning away some great students whose standardized test scores did not reflect their ability to succeed" wrote UMass-Lowell director of admissions Kerri Johnson in a letter to high school guidance counselors quoted in The Boston Globe.

A major problem with SATs, and with standardized tests in general, is that students from wealthy, well-educated families and/or well-funded school districts will be best prepared and get the best results. Critics have long argued that reliance on the SAT puts minority students at a disadvantage, and indeed Wake Forest University found that its percentage of minority applicants and students increased dramatically after it made the SAT exam optional in 2009.

Studies indicate that the SAT is not a good predictor of college success, in part because not all good students test well. A 2014 independent study cited by The Globe found that college students who did not submit SAT scores do just as well as their classmates who did, meaning the talent pool is not diluted.

In its Friday, November 6, editorial on the MCAS-PARCC debate within the state, The Eagle argued that a far larger issue than the merits of individual tests is over-reliance upon tests that over-burden teachers and students and put economically disadvantaged students and school districts in a hole not of their making. Evidence suggests that the same can be said of the SAT.


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