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Re: [Phys-L] no more SAT optional essay and subject tests

On 1/19/21 7:30 PM, stefan jeglinski wrote:

Not being too educated about this, I'd like to learn more. These are
extremely serious charges that I hope require the highest standards
of proof – are you referring to a racist, misogynist status quo
within the College Board's internal ranks, or within private and
public universities themselves? This was unclear to me.

If someone wanted to begin educating themselves about this topic,
what resources (reports, reasoned opinions, etc) would people here

1) These are important questions. Thanks for asking.

2) It's surprisingly hard to find information on this by googling.

3) I've spent thousands of hours on this issue. It's not something I
ever expected, but it just sorta happened. (There's an interesting
story I could tell about that.) I've seen enough to know it's a huge
problem. Even so, I don't consider myself an expert.

People are going to snicker at me for citing an article in Teen Vogue,
but it's a pretty good article, with links to the primary scholarly
Mariana Viera
"The History of the SAT Is Mired in Racism and Elitism"

“The SAT still promises something it can’t deliver: a way to
measure merit.” - Lani Guinier

Standardized tests are supposed to be neutral, value-free
assessments of how hard students work. The more students study, the
more seriously they take their education, the better they will
perform on these tests. In high-stakes settings, standardized tests
are used as primary determinants of student access to, or else
denial of, resources, opportunities, and spaces. The Scholastic
Assessment Test (SAT) is one such test. Ostensibly, the students
who work hardest will earn higher scores, and those scores will
give them an upper hand in the college admissions process. This
particular narrative neatly aligns with the illusion of America’s
meritocratic tradition: Those who work the hardest will reap the
greatest benefits, never mind structural inequality. But studies
have proven, time and again, that standardized tests are much
better at revealing things like household income, race, and level
of parental education than they are at predicting the success of
students in college classrooms.

Also, as Dan M. pointed out, the problems pervade the entire system, not
just the SATs. This thread started out being SAT-centered but it quickly
drifted. Which is OK.

Other possible starting points:
Rosi Reed
"Implicit Biases and Unlevel Playing Fields: Making Physics a True Meritocracy"

Sigal Samuel
"Women in science are up against a lot of unconscious bias. Here’s how to fight it."

4) My experience includes a lot of admissions/hiring/compensation/promotion
decisions, giving out prestigious academic fellowships, et cetera. I've
never seen an SAT-style test that measured anything I cared about. It
always seemed to me that when institutions emphasized test scores or GPAs,
it meant that they didn't trust their own decisionmaking processes, didn't
trust their own people to make decisions.

I've met a lot of smart, creative people who had high SAT scores ... and a
lot who didn't.

Can you direct us to some of the examples that are good AND
standardized? I don't hear about BOTH too often.

Another good question.

Here's one example I had in mind: The FAA Airman Certification Standards.
I don't recommend that you run out and read them, because they are written
in a ponderous bureaucratic style that you might expect from a ponderous
federal agency ... but when you get down to what they actually mean, it
makes a lot of sense. Let's be clear: I teach to the test. (I add to
it in a few places, but I sure don't leave anything out.) I'm happy to
teach to the test, because it's a good test. If you can do everything on
the test, you're good to go, and if not, you're not.

It costs about $500 per student to administer the test ... but anything
less would be a false economy, especially considering that lives are at

In the classroom, lives are not quite so directly at stake, but even so,
I am appalled by the lives wasted by blasphemous adoration of SAT-style
testing. It corrodes and corrupts the entire curriculum. It's a spectacularly
false economy even for the students who do well under the current system,
and a disaster for the others.

There's a lot more that needs to be said about this, but I'll stop here:
Epigram for the day:
I'm not opposed to testing. I'm opposed to stupid testing.

We need better tests.