Thursday, June 7, 2012

College Board Screws Up a Good Idea

In the words of the earnest but awfully deaf Emily Litella, a Gilda Radner character from Saturday Night Live in the 70s, "Never mind." The phrase sure applies to an action taken in April and then rescinded this week, by the College Board. The sad thing is the basic concept wasn't bad: Offer the SAT in the summer, after AP tests and high school finals and major papers are all behind the students and they can take the big test in a calmer frame of mind. Except the College Board decided to test the viability of summer SATs in a very odd way. Here's a description of the plan. In summary, students attending a three-week summer program for gifted and talented kids (and whose parents sprang for the $4500 program) would receive intense SAT coaching and then take the SAT on Aug. 3. Apparently this would have been the first time in decades the test was offered in the summer. It took a while, but in the past week, educators and bloggers began complaining about the inherent unfairness and hypocrisy of this arrangement. Where to begin? -- Who thought it would be valid to do a trial of the concept of summer testing with a group of privileged kids at one location? -- Didn't anyone consider that these kids would have been given a lot of tools for success (taking it without other school pressures, immediately after intense coaching) that might put them at unfair advantage to others competing for the same slots at colleges? -- And afraid that colleges wouldn't recognize the August testing date, the College Board was going to back-date the tests to show the June test date. -- Wait, there's more. Here's what the College Board says about SAT prep: "Research continues to show that short-term, for-profit test-prep courses don't increase test scores significantly, and such courses can't replace years of solid work in the classroom. The best way for students to get ready for the SAT is to take rigorous, challenging courses in high school and to become familiar with the test...we do not endorse the use of expensive test-prep courses." An organization charged with evaluating how well high school students think has demonstrated an inability to think through ramifications of actions and a disinclination to adhere to its own stated beliefs. Seems to me the College Board needs some prep courses in ethics and PR.

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