SAT Reboot 2016: “Nonsense It All Is”

In the often cited scene near the end of Notting Hill when Anna Scott stands in William Thacker’s shabby book store and asks him to love her, few are likely to recall a key point made by Anna.

But let’s imagine for a moment that instead of trying to save her relationship with William, Anna returns to the store to talk to him about the plan to reboot the SAT in 2016, and instead of the “I’m just a girl” bit, we focus on this from Anna:

“No, it’s all nonsense, believe me.  I had no idea how much nonsense it was, but nonsense it all is.”

And there you have it, neatly dressed in Hollywood garb, but essentially how we must all respond to the David Coleman-led charge to merge the Common Core (the newest education scam) with the SAT (possibly the oldest and longest running education scam).

Not long ago, I reasserted about the SAT: What is the SAT Good For? Absolutely Nothing, noting in part:

  • The College Board itself cautions against using the SAT for any comparative purposes: “Educators, the media and others should…not rank or rate teachers, educational institutions, districts or states solely on the basis of aggregate scores derived from tests that are intended primarily as a measure of individual students.” Average SAT scores for any state reflect the affluence of the test takers and the relative percentage of test takes—but certainly not the quality of the schools or the teachers.
  • The College Board’s own research repeatedly confirms that SAT scores are less predictive of freshman college success than GPA. (See Table 5, p. 5)
  • SAT scores historically and currently are most strongly correlated with parental income and level of education for parents. Select any year from the archived data, and these facts are confirmed. In short, the SAT is a metric that confirms privilege more so than identifying academic achievement or academic readiness for college (except in which ways those are inextricably tied to privilege).

I cannot fathom any reason to believe this 2016 reboot will create changes to draw a different conclusion. In fact, this reboot is just another publicity move by the College Board/SAT that falls in line with recent history: the mid-1990s re-centering (scores were dropping due to the testing pool changing and thus the SAT was getting bad press), the expansion in 2005 (the University of California caused a stir by calling for opting out of the SAT and thus the SAT was getting bad press), and now the 2016 reboot (the ACT surpassed the SAT in number of students taking the exam and thus the SAT was getting bad press).

There simply has never been and will never be a way to justify the time and expense needed to implement single-sitting standardized tests in pursuit of doing something for which we already have rich, credible, and free data (GPA) to guide decisions about students entering higher education.

The relentless faith in the SAT (and ACT) in the U.S. is trapped inside a misguided belief in objectivity—even though standardized tests have been shown repeatedly to perpetuate biases related to class, race, and gender.

This is the third major time the SAT has opened the door to reconsidering the test. The first two times, we mostly just walked in and sat right back at the table that was not really different at all except for the table cloth.

This third time, now that the SAT has opened the door again, we must kick it out, and ask Coleman and company to take the Common Core with them.

The 2016 reboot of the SAT is nonsense, “it’s all nonsense, believe me.”

And just as William did (briefly) when Anna came calling once again, we must take a stand and tell the College Board: “Can I just say no to your kind request?”

A Place for a Pedagogy of Kindness (the public and scholarly writing by P. L. Thomas, Furman University)


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