MEDIA WATCH: MSNBC, New York Times, and others expose latest SAT frauds and mendacities with the help of teachers, professors, and common sense... '...A better way of revising the SAT... would be to do away with it once and for all...'

As most informed teachers know, the "SAT" remains a kind of fetish among Americans -- and not just corporate "school reform" types. This remains true despite the fact that the SAT (and its companion, the ACT) has been regularly exposed as a fraud. Fraud? Yes, fraud. Thirty and forty years ago (when I took the SAT more than 50 years ago), "SAT" stood for "Scholastic Aptitude Test." But that turned out not to be true, so...

New York union activist and teacher Julie Cavanaugh has recently been in the news again during the critique of the latest revisions of the SAT. "WHOOPS!" said the SAT people! Research showed that what was being measured had nothing to do with aptitude, but with family income and a few other smaller factors. So instead of saying "SAT" meant "aptitude," the College Board, which makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year selling SAT, admitted the the test didn't measure aptitude, but changed it to "achievement." SAT became the "Scholastic Achievement Test."

But that turned out not to be true, either, so...

"WHOOPS AGAIN!", said the SAT people! More research showed that those tests were not measuring "achievement" either. So the College Board -- and the corporate elite behind the Eugenics movements that promoted stuff like SAT and IQ testing -- finally said that...

SAT means SAT.

It doesn't mean anything about "aptitude" or "achievement." The word SAT became self-referential, like "God."

But the SAT is always in the news because the SAT is still the SAT and lots of people believe in the SAT, just as they believe in the GOD. So rather than admit that they have been selling a fraudulent product for the past 90 years, the College Board tinkers with the SAT and each tinkering gives them a chance to say "This time we're going to get it right for sure!"

Most recently, the public was treated to the announcement by Mr. COMMON CORE, College Board President David Coleman (he invented the Common Core before getting hired by the College Board) announced that the SAT was morphing once again. A couple of years ago, the SAT responded to criticism by putting in an essay (and changing the "top" score from 1600 to 2400).

Instead of the essay, SAT was going back to the "verbal" and "math" testings.

And, according to SAT people, the "verbal" part will be more aimed at words students need to know for college work, instead of the famous "SAT words" that supposedly nobody ever used.

The latest morphation of SAT has drawn widespread comment and criticism. The research is conclusive now that SAT scores are directly related to family income. The richer you are, the higher your score. Merit and "aptitude" have little or nothing to do with that. Research also shows that SAT doesn't predict much of anything about college "readiness." Basically, high school grades predict that better.

So within the past week, there have been a lot of really good critiques of the SAT (and of course the usual apologetics from the ruling class theologians who will continue to try and promote their fetish).

One nice brief SAT debunking too place at MSNBC and included Julie Cavanaugh, a New York City classroom teacher who has long been active with New York's social justice union caucus, MORE. The URL for that one is:

An essay that made The New York Times Opt Ed page (March 2, 2014) had a bitterly funny slant to it and is also worth reading, written by a college professor in Maine who had trouble back in the day and still reflects on the reality of the SAT in the lives of children and young adults today.


BELGRADE LAKES, Me. I WAS in trouble. The first few analogies were pretty straightforward along the lines of leopard is to spotted as zebra is to striped but now I was in the tall weeds of nuance. Kangaroo is to marsupial as the giant squid is to I dont know, maybe D) cephalopod? I looked up for a second at the back of the head of the girl in front of me. She had done this amazing thing with her hair, sort of like a French braid. I wondered if I could do that with my hair.

I daydreamed for a while, thinking about the architecture of braids. When I remembered that I was wasting precious time deep in the heart of the SAT, I swore quietly to myself. French braids werent going to get me into Wesleyan. Although, in the years since I took the test in the mid-70s, Ive sometimes wondered if knowing how to braid hair was actually of more practical use to me as an English major than the quadratic equation. But enough of that. Back to the analogies. Loquacious is to mordant as lachrymose is to ... uh ...

This was the moment I saw the terrible thing I had done, the SAT equivalent of the Hindenburg disaster. Id accidentally skipped a line on my answer sheet, early in that section of the test. Every answer Id chosen, each of those lines of graphite-filled bubbles, was off by one. I looked at the clock. Time was running out. I could see the Wesleyan campus fading before my eyes.

I began moving all my bubbles up one line, erasing the wrong answers. The eraser on my No. 2 pencil hadnt been at full strength when Id started, and now I was nearly down to the metal.

Then there was a ripping sound.

I picked up the answer sheet. Through the gaping hole in the middle of it, I could see the hair of the girl in front of me.

That braid really was a remarkable thing.

I remembered this sequence, like something from a Hitchcock film, when the College Board announced this week that it was rolling out a complete do-over of the SAT. Starting in 2016, gone will be the tristful effect of arcane vocabulary words such as tristful and arcane; gone will be the penalty for guessing wrong instead of leaving the answer blank; and gone will be the short-lived mandatory essay section, a test that reportedly places a higher value on loquaciousness than logic.

All in all, the changes are intended to make SAT scores more accurately mirror the grades a student gets in school.

The thing is, though, there already is something that accurately mirrors the grades a student gets in school. Namely: the grades a student gets in school. A better way of revising the SAT, from what I can see, would be to do away with it once and for all.

The SAT is a mind-numbing, stress-inducing ritual of torture. The College Board can change the test all it likes, but no single exam, given on a single day, should determine anyones fate. The fact that we have been using this test to perform exactly this function for generations now is a national scandal.

The problems with the test are well known. It measures memorization, not intelligence. It favors the rich, who can afford preparatory crash courses. It freaks students out so completely that they cannot even think.

As the mother of two former SAT takers (one a sophomore in college, the other a senior in high school awaiting the result of his applications), I can also point out another problem with the test: It usually starts around 8:30 in the morning. I dont know if the members of the College Board have ever met a 17-year-old at that hour, but I can tell you this is not the time of day I would choose to test their ability to do anything, except perhaps make orangutan sounds.

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I sympathize with college-admissions deans who want a simple, accurate measurement of student potential. But no such measurement exists, as I can attest from 25 years as an English professor. Students flower or diminish unexpectedly, in ways unpredictable and strange. One of the great joys of teaching is that moment when a student makes a leap and creates something new. The possibility of that leap is unlikely to be measured by a test involving bubble sheets.

The only way to measure students potential is to look at the complex portrait of their lives: what their schools are like; how theyve done in their courses; what theyve chosen to study; what progress theyve made over time; how theyve reacted to adversity. Of course colleges try to take these nuanced portraits into account, but too often theyre overshadowed by the SAT. Our children, precious, brilliant, frustrating, confused souls that they are, are more than a set of scores.

On that long-ago test day, I scratched in the last of my bubbles and barely finished on time. Id go on to take the test again, and in the end I got lucky despite my somewhat gruesome scores, I squeezed off the wait list and into Wesleyan.

But this is what stayed with me from that day: When at last the sour proctor gave us permission to leave, everyone leapt to their feet, everyone except me and that girl with the French braid. I noticed, as I sat there, contemplating what I thought was my newly vanished future, that the back of her head was shaking.

When I finally got up to leave, I glanced down at her face. She was weeping.

[Jennifer Finney Boylan is a contributing opinion writer, a professor at Colby College and the author of Stuck in the Middle With You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders.]


March 9, 2014 at 2:05 PM

By: Rod Estvan

The sorting system

Thanks for your commentary on the SAT. What is so beautiful about the ACT and SAT are that these tests that deny admission to thousands of lower income students to better 4 year colleges make these students fully believe it was their own fault they didn't make the cut.

The reality is our economy can absorb only so many college graduates with higher skills. If there are an over abundance of these higher skilled graduates the average wage will fall, so the upper middle class and even more wealthy families largely support this system. It effectively is a self perpetuating system that leads to higher income jobs.

Rod Estvan

March 9, 2014 at 5:53 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Sorting systems, SATs, and terminal solutions

Ironically, every society needs some kind of "sorting system" for its own stability. The danger with every sorting system that claims to be based on "Divine Right" is that believers not only find ways to blame themselves for their problems, but that those who win the system's most pronounced rewards come to believe that they somehow deserve all that. One of the things I joke with about friends and comrades who ask "Can they do that?" is "Schmidt's First Rule." Viz., "They have been doing it since the Pharaohs forced us to build their pyramids and didn't even say 'Thank You."

The names of the gods and God and GOD change from century to century, but wherever they are part of the plan to rank and sort human beings, the sorting system eventually comes under the control of those who continue to benefit the most from it, while those at the "bottom" are forced into what one wise philosopher called "increasing immiseration." Marie Antoinette probably believed she had "earned" all those wigs (and by the time of her death, she had dozens, by most accounts), and Kenneth Kenny Boy Lay really knew he not only needed but deserved those extra homes in Aspen (by the time of his detht, the Enron chief had three there).

Meanwhile, their savants and servants among the punditry pour out the apologetics for this century's plutocracy. From Thomas Aquinas to David Brooks, the fundamental technique is the same: This is the natural order of things. Accept it. And if you can't read and speak Latin, well, you just don't have the right to know what God said anyway. Just trust the priests -- from the Fathers of the Church to David Brooks. Tom Friedman, and today's pontificators.

Every now and then an intelligent person, studying these guys, takes their philosophy to its logical conclusion and you get all those pages in Mein Kampf thanking Henry Ford and the philosophers of England and America for promoting Eugenics Science. And for giving him the example of the creation of all that Lebensraum in North America (at the expense of the Native peoples here). That was why all those Nazis (not all Germans -- just the majority by the 1940s) couldn't understand how Americans could be so complaining about what later became known as the Holocaust. After all, it had been scientifically proven, more or less, and then implemented in North America.

Every ranking and sorting system demands a "final solution" for those who wind up at "the bottom." The Nuremberg Laws simply took those scientific claims to their logical conclusions in the first step -- the elimination of the "feeble minded" and the Roma (called gypsies). With the same cunning he had used in his moves for space for the "Volk," the leader of all that made a move (Sudetenland; Austria; Western Poland) and then waited to see what his adversaries were willing to do.

By the time of the Wanessee Conference that worked out the details of the "Final Solution", those in power there knew how much they could get away with. And I recently read that most of the guys at that meeting had doctorates, just as many of the most vicious Gauleiters and generals were very very well educated. They knew, based on their own experiences, why they had won their generation's Race To The Top and many of them couldn't ever understand why millions of others (including both my parents, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II) didn't understand the logical progressions of their brilliant thinkings.

And so it goes to today. Once again, the "SAT" is being rejiggered to make it "work" after the latest iteration was proved to be a lie. But from the point of view of Eugenics Science and the thinkings of the David Brookses, Tom Friedmans, Arne Duncans and Michelle Obamas of the world -- it's been working just fine.

Result: Every time they get caught in another lie, they simply proclaim "NEXT TIME WE'LL GET IT RIGHT!" and see if they can keep that long con, which began long before Munich, going for another five or ten years. And as long as there are assholes around us who as they slide into dementia can still tell you their SAT scores (because they were at the "top"), we'll probably keep getting the New, Improved, This-Time-It-Will-'Work" SAT.

When it's really been working all along, but the Tom Friedmans and David Brookses can't admit that its underlying purpose is the same as the philosophy that was known to all those smart guys at Wannesee.

March 10, 2014 at 9:04 AM

By: Bob Busch


The only thing a test measures is the author.

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