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Perverting the SAT

July 5, 2002

The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) has been used by colleges for many years to predict the success of students in college. Colleges have found SATs to be an effective tool in measuring college aptitude, that is, the ability to do college work. Since colleges are interested in admitting those students who will be successful in post-secondary work, the SAT has been one of the most widely used college aptitude tests in the nation.

An aptitude test is different from an achievement test. An achievement test looks at what a student has accomplished. An aptitude test tries to predict what a student will accomplish, that is, graduate successfully from college. An achievement test looks at the past. An aptitude test looks at the future.

Last month the Trustees of the College Board for the SAT voted to change the SAT from an aptitude test to an achievement test ("College Board to Vote on Overhauling SAT I, Adding Writing Section," Washington Post). The changes are described as "the most significant overhaul in the 76-year history of the nation's most widely used such test." With these changes, the SAT will be redefined as something entirely different from what it has been.

David Jacob, spokesman for the College Board, the nonprofit higher education association that owns the SAT, said:

"The overall objective is to align the test more closely with what is taught in school today..."

In other words, the SAT will now test a student's achievement in K-12 school. That is, it will measure how well the student has absorbed the curriculum the school system has provided.

The SAT Board is also dropping the entire SAT analogies section of the test because of criticism that word analogies "are not taught in school." The word analogies are being dropped because they measure aptitude, not achievement.

Why would the SAT, which has been highly accurate as a college aptitude test, entirely redefine itself?

The answer to that question can be found by looking at the new federal curriculum, the "national standards" that all students in public K-12 schools must now, by federal law, know and be able to do." (See the federal No Child Left Behind legislation and its curricular mandates)

The National Standards for Civics Education, developed and distributed by the Center for Civic Education with funding and authorization granted by federal education law, under "Audiences and uses of the National Standards," state:

"Assessment specialists. Standards are essential to the development of assessment programs designed to determine acceptable levels of performance."

("National Standards for Civics and Government, Part VI," )

In other words, assessments will measure curriculum (civics education identifies itself as central to all other curriculum) that must match the new federal curriculum. The national norm- referenced tests, such as the Iowa Basics, are being required to align their content with the new mandated federal curriculum. All state assessments are being aligned with the new federal curriculum. The SAT is now also being aligned with the new federal curriculum. (See "How did We Get a Federal Curriculum?" February 13, 2002, )

The implications of this realignment of the SAT are profound. The new federal K-12 curriculum requires little more than minimum competencies in knowledge-based learning. Attitudes and beliefs are the core curriculum of the new federal standards. The federal curriculum is based on creating a new global citizen, not educating children with broad-based knowledge.

The realigned SAT will test for diversity and the acceptance of every value system and spiritual philosophy imaginable, while undermining the pride of our unique American heritage and respect for the Judeo-Christian worldview. Expect the SAT to take an approach to environmentalism that reveres the earth, but casts a hostile eye at individual ownership of private property.

The new curriculum does not admit to objective fact or "self evident truths," as our Declaration of Independence puts it. Don't expect students to know or be tested on unalienable rights of life, liberty and property as the foundations of our liberty; the basic rights have been superceded by the well-being of the group.

Required federal standards de-emphasize the knowledge that used to be considered education. Students are instead trained in skills for jobs. Such is the new alignment of the SAT.

As a consequence, the SAT realignment will recommend for advancement to post-secondary education those students who most thoroughly parrot the worldview of the now required federal curriculum. Private and homeschooled students who haven't picked up on the new curriculum will be at a distinct disadvantage.

Nonpublic educators have always prided themselves on their students out-performing public school students on the SAT. They have used high SAT scores as evidence of their success. The new SAT will dramatically change all that, because the new SAT will not be testing aptitude. It will be testing the new federal curriculum. Approximately 10% of U.S. K-12 students attend non-public schools. Unless nonpublic entities teach that curriculum, their nonpublic students will have a harder time being accepted into colleges (or qualifying for scholarships, advanced placement and the like). The new SAT will marginalize nonpublic students who do not comply with the federal curriculum.

Since the federal Goals 2000/School-to-Work laws were passed in 1994, restructuring education for ALL students in our country, the bringing of nonpublic students under its all-encompassing umbrella has been a top concern. This SAT realignment is one significant way by which the agents of change in this country will accomplish that goal.

Julie M. Quist
MREdCo Vice President


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