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PD Editorial: More changes put SAT to the test

  • (MIKE SMITH / Las Vegas Sun)

The College Board's decision to switch the SAT back to a 1,600-point scale, make the essay portion of the test optional and make other changes is further evidence of:

A) The dumbing down of America.

B) The diminishing importance of good writing skills, proper grammar and a robust vocabulary to most Americans.

C) The irrelevance of the Scholastic Aptitude Test as a means of fairly assessing college readiness.

D) Testing experts are finally getting something right.

E) None of the above.

You'll be forgiven if you miss this one. We're struggling with it ourselves. Our inclination is to follow many of our writing brethren and go with the simple answer (A) or its more acute cousin (B). Both offer emotionally satisfying, albeit flawed, explanations.

However, in the final analysis, we really don't believe that America, still the world's leader in innovation, is getting dumber, nor do we believe that the actions of the College Board speak for anything other than the members of the College Board. Thus, given the caveat that if any part of the answer is incorrect than the whole answer is incorrect, we're forced to move on to other possibilities.

Many would find C an attractive, catch-all answer. After all, who is going to stand up and defend the SAT as a true predictor of who will succeed and who will not at the college level? The test is more of a microscope in examining an individual's reasoning capabilities than a telescope in projecting one's future.

All the same, colleges and even some employers are not ready to abandon using test scores, including the SAT, as a measure in determining future students and employees. As Winston Churchill once said of democracy, it's the worst form of testing, except for all the others that have been tried.

Thus, is it possible that the answer is actually D? This would certainly appear to be true, at least in respects to the essay, which became part of the SAT less than a decade ago.

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