New Test or Old?

While I strongly disagree with Jay Mathews’ views of No Child Left Behind, he and I are completely in sync when it comes to the SAT. In the quarterly Education Review section of the Post Magazine section, Mathews takes on the angst and confusion over alterations to the annual high school rite of passage, along with the companies that make millions playing on those emotions.

The "new" SAT which debuts next spring will drop the analogy section in favor of having students write an essay. They will also be faced with second year algebra questions in the math section and a top score of 2400, up from 1600. Even with the changes, Mathews doesn’t think much of the test.

But I still don’t like the SAT. It is a blunt ax, an outdated ritual, a vile weed. If you have been paying attention in school and doing the reading, you will do fine in college. It doesn’t matter whether you take the new version or the old, and no matter what the ads say, your test-preparation course is unlikely to do you much good. (My daughter’s many weeks in her prep course produced a whopping 10-point increase in her score, or about $100 per point.)

Aside from ranting about the SAT, Mathews also notes that one of the largest test prep companies, Kaplan, is owned by his employer. Kaplan is also one of many businesses marketing after school tutorial programs to "failing" schools that are required by NCLB to provide them for all students and thus sucking more money from the classroom. Business must be pretty good since Kaplan is now a larger part of the company than any division except the broadcast stations. Public education is supposed to be non-profit, but it seems standardized testing certainly isn’t.