Education Letter to the Editor

SAT for Accountability? Not a Good Idea

September 25, 2006 1 min read

To the Editor:

In response to “In More States, It’s Now ACT or SAT for All,” (Sept. 13, 2006):

Like many other close observers, we at the Princeton Review believe the SAT should play a smaller, not a greater role in the lives of students and schools .

Giving even greater weight to the SAT raises crucial questions of pedagogy, equity, and accountability. With its roots as a test of IQ, the SAT is specifically designed to be unaligned to state standards, and hence bears little relation to the actual work of high school students. Unlike tests linked tightly to content standards, the most effective preparation for the SAT—as we well know—has no academic benefit at all. And as your article suggests, devoting district money and time to lowest-common-denominator test preparation simply squanders scarce resources without offsetting the advantages enjoyed by wealthier families.

Increasing the expectation of college for all students is a good thing, and wider participation in admissions testing can be a sensible part of that. The proper approach, however, is the opposite of expanding the domain of the SAT. Rather than make this contentless “aptitude test” the benchmark for high school quality, states should create tests and processes that tie content-based high school exit exams to admissions at state universities.

In the meantime, Colorado’s approach of increasing ACT participation while maintaining its content-based state standards is certainly preferable to Maine’s unfathomable eagerness to simply hand over the educational reins to the College Board and the Educational Testing Service.

Certainly, states’ processes for creating and assessing content standards are imperfect. But these limitations are surely not remedied by delegating states’ legal and ethical responsibilities to private, unaccountable organizations, especially those that cynically market the expanded misuse of an instrument widely known to be deeply flawed, even for its intended purpose.

Steven Hodas

Executive Vice President

The Princeton Review

New York, N.Y.