The new SAT


Tom Joseph, who blogs at The Thinking Democrat, wrote us, and we would like to share his letter with you.

I read Trevor Bothwell's article, "The New SAT blurs aptitude" with interest. Thank you for bringing attention to an important subject.  I remember attending a small weekly summer seminar at my alma mater.  The University's Assistant Dean to the School of Education was also attending.  During one of our breaks, we got into a debate about the SATs.  I took the position that the SATs had been adjusted to artificially raise the average score and significantly raise lower scores.  The very nice lady pretty much questioned my sanity.  She  pointed out that the University's admission standards had not changed and neither had the quality of incoming Freshmen.

This conversation happened in the early 1990's.  About a year later, I read an article covering how the attempt to make the SATs racially neutral may have increased the average score by as much as 30 points.  None of this was accidental and the results were exactly what the educational establishment wanted.  The reason for my early conclusion that the SATs had been bastardized was simple deductive reasoning.  The scores which had been dropping for over a decade and were suddenly increasing.  Since the quality of education hadn't improved, the quality of the tests had to have declined. 

Unfortunately, the SATs are only a part of a mountain of problems with our educational establishment.  When faced with declining student achievement, their answer was to change the tests that measured achievement.  If I had to summarize the main problem with education, it would be a switch from the quality of education to the quantity of education.  We are facing a philosophy of education committed to the system of education and not to the act of educating individual children or adults.

On June 6, 1991, there was a special or report on one of the television networks about the Maybel B. Wesley Elementary School in the Houston School System.  The children were 95% minority students living in a crime and drug ridden area with an almost 100% poverty rate.  They were also attending one of Houston's best performing schools.  Students were doing work sometimes as much as two years above grade level.  Test results placed these students in the top 25% of all Texas Schools.

You would think that the local educational community would be very interested in learning how this educational miracle had been achieved, so that it could be duplicated in other elementary schools within the district.  You would be wrong.  The Administration and the Superintendent of the Houston Schools attacked the Principal and the school for not conforming to their philosophy of education.  At one point, they even sent investigators into a 1st Grade class, while it was in session, to search the room.  They accused the teacher of helping the children cheat on district tests.

The Principal of this school was black and so were the majority of teachers.  Their unforgivable crime was to use teaching methods some of them had experienced during their own education.  In the case of the Principal, he had attended a Catholic Grade School. 

The real unforgivable crime here was the thought that minority students just couldn't excel and beat the socks off of the white kids in the suburban schools.  This kind of thing could destroy the structure of the entire school system.  Racism, by any other name, still smells as foul.

tom joseph