Test Critics Tell College Board Trustees: "New SAT" Proposals are Cosmetic, Marketing Ploy Evading Test's Real Problems

for further information:
Bob Schaeffer (941) 395-6773
or Christina Perez (857) 350-8207



for immediate release, Monday, June 17, 2002


As College Board leaders prepare for a Thursday, June 27 meeting at which they are scheduled to vote on changes to the SAT undergraduate admissions test, the country's leading assessment reform organization has posed a set of unanswered questions to Board Trustees about the proposed revisions.
A letter to the College Board from the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) states, "Based on the available evidence, FairTest is gravely concerned that the proposals before you fail to address the SAT's major flaws -- its weak predictive validity, demonstrable gender and ethnic biases, susceptibility to coaching, and harmful impact on school curriculum. Instead the package of revisions appears to be little more than a marketing ploy, designed to maintain the SAT's profitability without addressing its fundamental problems."
The proposed changes to the SAT include addition of a "writing test" composed of a short essay plus multiple-choice copy editing items, elimination of analogy problems, and broadening of its math content. Among the questions posed by FairTest to College Board Trustees:

§ Is there any evidence that the "New SAT-I" will predict college grades more accurately than the current test does? How will cosmetic changes in the format and content improve the test's weak ability to predice college academic performance?

§ Will changing the SAT-I level the playing field for students from diverse backgrounds? How will the revisions address the fact that the SAT underestimates the academic potential of young women, students whose first language is not English, and applicants over age 25? Will College Board trustees stop SAT misuses, such as minimum score cut-offs, that limit the academic opportunities available to African Americans, Latinos, low-income students, and students with special needs.

§ How will the "New SAT-I" be any less "coachable" than the current test? What is to prevent applicants from upper income families, who can afford the $800+ price tag for the more effective coaching courses, from gaining an extra edge in the admissions process?

§ Is there a realistic plan for scoring an SAT-I essay in a manner that is fair, accurate and timely? Will adding an essay written under time pressure increase the test's bias against students whose first language is not English? Can essays be graded in a way that discourages formulaic writing and encourages creativity?

§ Why should anyone expect that minor SAT-I alterations will reduce the "distortion" of school curriculum? There is an old adage in the measurement profession: "What is tested is what is taught!"What will stop teachers from drilling students on the revised subject matter and format?

§ How much more will marketing and administration of the "New SAT" cost students in both time and money? Test-takers and their families already spend hundreds of dollars on the test and related products.

§ Why should any college require the SAT, old or "new"? Nearly 400 bachelor degree-granting institutions nationwide do not consider SAT-I or ACT scores before making admissions offers to substantial portions of their entering classes (see www.fairtest.org for a detailed list).

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- the FairTest letter to College Board Trustees and other background material is available on request