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Topic: SAT
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Robert Hansen

Posts: 7,605
From: Florida
Registered: 6/22/09
Posted: Mar 16, 2014 11:19 AM
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The SAT has been in the news recently due to changes announced by the College Board for the year 2016. Namely -

Making the writing portion optional and removing it from the total score, thus going back to the 1600 scale.
Removing esoteric vocabulary questions.
Aligning the rest of the test with current curriculum.

It is the last item that worries me, but until I see the new test questions I can?t really make a judgement. I saw one report that the College Board was following the same path that ACT recently took. Hearing this, I went to the bookstore to get the official ACT test prep material, since it includes actual ACT tests. But the material was copyrighted 5 years ago and I need something more current. So, until I see the *new* questions, I can?t say what these changes mean.

But what is really making the rounds lately is the correlation between SAT scores and Income, which is displayed on page 4 of the following report -


The pundits are everywhere and are claiming that this shows that the SAT (and the ACT) are unfair and are actually measures of income, not aptitude. And further, income allows for more test preparation and that is what these scores reflect. I haven?t generally bought this because if they were so sure that they found the secret to high SAT scores, then why not just use it and get high SAT scores? And indeed, many schools now have SAT preparation included in the curriculum, which I think is great, but it hasn't changed outcomes in a manner even close to what the pundits claim. Also, when you review the variance in scores from one income extreme to the other, it isn?t that striking.

Let?s look at mathematics. The range in average score by income is 462 to 586, and that is for the entire range of income, from $0 to over $200,000/yr. Is a variance of 124 points really that surprising at those extremes? And if you eliminate the two extremes and look at $20k to $200k, the range is 465 to 539, a variance of only 74 points. Again, how is this extraordinary? The same report includes the SAT scores by ethnicity (page 3). The variance between Asians and Blacks alone is 168 points, and between Asians and Whites it is 63 points. The variance by gender (page 1) is 32 points.

Unfortunately, several tables that would have shed more light on the picture are missing. For example, a table by ethnicity, score and income. If income is the determining factor then we should be able to isolate it from other factors, correct? And averages don?t tell whole stories. It would be far better to see distributions. One dot per student by income and score. Then you would see that there still are students scoring highly, even in lower income brackets, but there are many more scoring poorly. That should be the focus of study. When we hold income, what then are the other factors that correlate with score?

And why wouldn?t SAT scores correlate with income? Are people so unaware of all of the other bad things that correlate with income? Crime. Delinquency. Scarce parents. Peer pressure. When you take all of that into account, these math score variances are not shocking to me. And I grew up in all of that. It is a testament to public education that even this much is getting through all of that.

And when these pundits are talking about income, are they really talking about income? Or are they just talking about race again? I mean, if this movement was truly about socioeconomic causes then why don?t we see an *equal* distribution in college admissions in terms of ethnicity. If colleges are admitting students with lesser SAT scores to make up for the alleged effects of income disparity, then why are they not applying it equally, without regard to ethnicity? Isn?t a white kid in a $40,000 family as equally affected as a black kid in a $40,000 family? If admission policies were actually based on considerations of income rather than ethnicity then we wouldn?t see the 200-300 point gaps in college admissions by ethnicity that we see today.

The unfortunate result of political educational theory is that it isn?t even trying to improve education. It?s all political. It is actually making it easier for those with an education to win. Sad as it is to say, my competition isn?t mostly kids coming from our educational system. It?s mostly kids coming from other educational systems. If I find that my competition was educated here, within the last 15 years, it actually brings a sense of relief.

Bob Hansen

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