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New York Times Article about the Redesigned SAT


Replies to: New York Times Article about the Redesigned SAT

  • PlotinusPlotinus Registered User Posts: 904 Member
    Studies have shown that bilingual students are penalized in the sense that their SAT scores underpredict their college grades. In college they can use a dictionary. Kids who go to school in a different language are not exposed to as much reading in English, even if the kids are great readers. The SAT does not measure this well.
  • PeriwinklePeriwinkle Registered User Posts: 3,505 Senior Member
    But outside analysts say the way the words are presented makes a difference. For instance, short sentence-completion questions, which tested logic and vocabulary, have been eliminated in favor of longer reading passages, from literary sources like “Ethan Frome” and “Moby-Dick,” or political ones, like John Locke’s ideas about consent of the governed. These contain sophisticated words and thoughts in sometimes ornate diction.

    So, it's less amenable to memorizing large lists of words, but more closely tailored to measuring students' preparation for college-level texts.

    What if high schools moved away from reading small samples of texts to reading whole novels? Thus the entire field moves from cramming for a 3 hour logic game to building the skills needed to pass real college courses?
  • anothermom2anothermom2 Registered User Posts: 1,753 Senior Member
    I think that the "new" style of reading tests a certain type of reading comprehension, but that it does not actually test ability to do well in college. I think the tests are a contest, and for admission to the most competitive schools you must win. The admissions committees cut a break to certain underrepresented groups that they wish to admit by often allowing lower scores than for "overrepresented" groups. The students who are at a disadvantage are the group of students who have done well in their local school district, want to attend elite schools, but can not get close to perfect scores. I am not convinced that this is worth crying about, although for the individuals it is quite frustrating. While I have great sympathy for the poor who often get a lousy public education, I don't think these students are prepared for an "elite" education, and it would be great if they were able to attend any college, let alone an "elite" college.

    The questions on these critical reading tests usually follow a certain formula such as - in paragraph x the author suggests two main points and then four choices with two points each from which the student has to select the correct two points. In literature, history, social science etc. a good education is supposed to teach you that the answers are not binary yes or no or analog (eg. choice C and no other). If you study Melville for example, you are supposed to find symbolism, nuances etc. that are not distilled down to one sentence. What if you don't agree with any of the choices or what if you need more time to think about Moby Dick (after all it is a very difficult book that most college students don't read at all). What about those who can write a great paper about Moby Dick but don't get many of the multiple choice questions correct? Those students exist as well. The good news is that there are more varieties of college than just the top ones, and that even with an average score most people have fairly good options. Poor Melville, he is probably rolling over in his grave.

    I did read Moby Dick and Locke in college, but that had a lot to do with what I chose to study, not general requirements to graduate. I think of 19th century authors and early political philosophers as educational substance of a bygone era. Today's usual economics, business or computer science student is unlikely to have any of this. Yes maybe at HYPS they still get this as part of a well rounded education (I wouldn't know, as I am not familiar with the curriculum), but I know many business students and engineers who had none of this.

  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 12,285 Senior Member
    If you study Melville for example, you are supposed to find symbolism, nuances etc. that are not distilled down to one sentence.

    Far too many high school English lit classes don't get into enough depth to teach finding nuances and symbolism adequately because instructors often need to tackle more fundamental reading issues. Those issues range from basic literacy to getting students adjusted to reading lengthier materials than what they're used to reading in K-8.

    This issue affects most college bound students...including some who attend the most elite colleges as i've observed sitting in some HS classmates' classrooms and from tutoring some elite college students after undergrad.

    One novel I had to read sophomore year in HS which can arguably match or exceed Melville in the difficulties of finding symbolism and nuances was Henry James' "Turning of the Screw". I would have found Melville or Homer to be easier going...
  • NervousDad01NervousDad01 Registered User Posts: 18 New Member
    edited February 2016
    The problem is at some point college or university can not hand hold you through your education. Is it unfair? Absolutely. But then that person should be placed in remedial classes to get up to speed before enrolling in college courses.
  • marvin100marvin100 Registered User Posts: 9,669 Senior Member
    College grades do this too. Students unprepared for college because they speak a different language at home or have not been exposed to a lot of reading simply do poorly. No it is not fair. Yes everyone deserves an education. But come on. If you have not been exposed to a lot of reading that is your fault and the fault of your parents. People brought up in a hovel in some isolated island can find reading material in the US. Colleges are and should be trying to enroll poor but prepared students. But they should not be enrolling students who have not been exposed to and can not tackle reading. Those students need to be in a remedial setting until they can.

    Well, yes and no. Internationals with English fluency weaknesses may not get good grades in their college humanities requirements, but they'll probably major in engineering or some other STEM discipline. And while it's true that STEM majors have to read and write to some degree, it turns out that fluency weaknesses aren't much of a barrier in those disciplines. The increased focus on reading skills will definitely hurt those students.
  • RamenUniversityRamenUniversity Registered User Posts: 154 Junior Member
    Maybe it's just me, but maybe making sure that our college students are well read is a good thing lol..
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 38,820 Senior Member
    The issue here is that students for whom English is not a first language may well be able to read a psychology or composition textbook fine, but wouldn't make heads nor tails of Ethan Fromme. Literary texts from the 19th century, 18th century political philosophy texts... will be completely off for them. They won't be able to show what they know because the texts won't be appropriate for their level of language mastery. They may speak and read very well, even long texts, but written in contemporary language.
    Perhaps ELL's will be allowed to replace the SAT with the TOEFL and Math1/2 then, but as of now this isn't on the table.
    Poor students tend to attend lower-performing schools, where a significant part of class time is spent on explicit meaning (plus classroom management depending on the class), except for those who have access to APUSH or AP Lit, and that would be a tiny minority. They may be bright but they'll be tested on skills they've never been taught and haven't been able to practice.
  • marvin100marvin100 Registered User Posts: 9,669 Senior Member
    Maybe it's just me, but maybe making sure that our college students are well read is a good thing lol..

    This test doesn't do that, though. In fact, no test does that.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 31,207 Senior Member
    I read Moby Dick and Locke in high school. In college my reading list was much less intellectual!
  • gearsstudiogearsstudio Registered User Posts: 674 Member
    How is it unfair to immigrants and the poor? Being poor is no excuse to have bad reading skills, it's everyone's own responsibility to meet their goals on standardized tests. Same for being an immigrant.
  • NJSueNJSue Registered User Posts: 2,839 Senior Member
    I frankly don't think it's the job of the SAT (or the ACT) to accommodate ESL learners. These tests are supposed to predict ability to handle college-level curricula, taught in English, in the United States. There are certainly ESL students who perform on the verbal SAT at a high level (often these are European students who have been learning English in school since the age of 5 and have been immersed in English-language cultural products). The point of the SAT is to assess levels of college readiness. Some institutions don't value high-level English language literacy, and others do. All colleges can make up their own policies as to how to interpret the scores.
  • okon2122okon2122 Registered User Posts: 288 Junior Member
    Translate the SAT for them. Done. maybe have half in English and half in their native language.
  • KasamiKasami Registered User Posts: 299 Junior Member
    @okon2122 That seems like a logisitcal nightmare. Imagine having to translate some portion of the test to every language potentially spoken by test takers. What if the student speaks an obscure dialect? Furthermore, imagine how many employees would have to be hired to deal with that volume of work; it's impossible.

    Besides, that hardly seems standard at all. It needs to be in English because the SAT is primarily a US exam, and the fact of the matter is, college courses are taught in English. Aspiring US college students need to be able to handle that level of instruction, even if it's not their first language.
  • RHSclassof16RHSclassof16 Registered User Posts: 922 Member
    Yeah no I haven't actually read a book since about the 8th grade. (Sparknotes) and I scored 650 on the Critical Reading by just practicing the test a number of times. That was my worst score of the 3 sections but it's still well above the average.
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