I’ve always been a lousy test taker. I was intrigued to read last week that the 88-year old SAT (Student Aptitude Test) is being “dumbed down.” Too late for me, I’m afraid.
In a major change to its traditional measures, starting in 2016 students will no longer be required to write an essay and will no longer be penalized for a wrong answer. According to the College Board, this is in support of the national movement to “better align” what high school students actually learn. What that means is the SAT will be designed to hide the fact that students are learning less and less in grades K-12.
The LA Times (LATimes.com, 3/5/14) reports College Board President David Cameron saying that the revised reading exam will drop the more difficult vocabulary words to “focus on words students will use over and over again.” Ditto math questions and reasoning, which will supposedly be linked to “real life” questions.
So what does this “democratization” of testing say for the future of entrepreneurship? Well, it says much the same thing as the wide-spread practice of social promotion in K-12 education. So what if many of our students are not performing to the level of their accreditation. So what if unprepared students are being poured into our colleges and into life. Let’s just lower the standards and say our children’s vitiated degrees represent an acceptable preparation for a job. This is the future pool of our employees, Brothers and Sisters. I’m worried.
Here is what is actually being changed, according to the March 12, 2014 NY Post.
- The writing section will become optional.
- Less common words will be gone.
- No more penalty for wrong guesses.
- Required math knowledge will be considerably narrowed.
In the same article the Post reports Anne Neal, President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, fretting over the “elimination of more difficult vocabulary and writing requirements,” and the watering down of the math standards. She feels the new SAT simply is an attempt to “fudge over” students’ shortcomings.
Furthermore, it really makes no sense to reduce standards when our biggest educational conundrums—in workforce development, national security, and even in immigration policy— center around STEM (science, technology, entgineering, and mathmatics) issues.
Patric Hale, COO of The CEO Show Magazine, sent me a rather trenchant email last Monday commenting on the dumbing down of American education and its SAT measurement. Says Partic:
“The SAT people are right. No sense in having that essay question because the next generation only uses Twitter, so 140 characters is all they need. And let’s not ask any theoretic math questions at all, but stick just to practical math. Of course, since no high school seems to teach kids the fundamentals of either personal finance or economics—that is, math they REALLY need in real life—what is left?
As for vocabulary—let’s only ask them about words they use all the time. I’m thinking here “awesome”, “cool”, “narly”, “like”, crack”, “fly”, “bummed out”. Maybe they could also set up a section on abbreviations, too, like: OMG, IMO, IMHO, LOL, etc. (that means et cetera and is a “foreign” word, so they probably won’t include it on the test).”
I agree with Patric. Our educational infrastructure is increasingly a thing of shreds and patches, quite insufficient to the present task, at worst a disaster. Therefore, the educational establishment, to avoid accountability and revealing its advanced state of being undressed in public, simply lowers the bar and says, “Problem solved.” Yeah. Right.
The whole thing fills me with stomach level sadness. Also worry as to the future of my children and of transformational entrepreneurial innovation. India and China must be licking their lips.
Political philosopher Hanna Arendt warned in 1958, “We have almost succeeded in leveling all human activities to the lowest common denominator.” Quite, Hannah. Thanks.