We are a tutoring business and do getting numerous calls for help from parents to assist their child on the college entrance aptitude tests widely used in the USA known as the SAT and ACT. This is a great revenue generator for us and for many organizations such as The College Board, ACT, Inc., Sylvan, and Huntington. Despite this business opportunity I am NOT a fan of these “standardized” tests, the costs to take them, and the stigmas they give to students (and parents). As a student in the late 70’s and 80’s I weaved my way through the system avoiding both of these assessments and successfully earned a Master’s degree. Yes, I even got around the Graduate Entrance exams..Of course I was always a bit defiant and anti-establishment.
While it is easy to criticize these widely used, time proven and highly accepted aptitude tests the scientific proof to support my dislike has been scarce. Then today while listening to my local NPR station a report came on of a study focused on the reliability of the SAT to predict college success. The results described in the story titled ‘College Applicants Sweat The SAT’s… Perhaps They Shouldn’t‘ show that the SAT does little better than good high school grades in predicting a students college success. As stated by William Hiss, Bates College former dean of admissions in the NPR story “This study will be a first step in examining what happens when you admit tens of thousands of students without looking at their SAT scores. And the answer is, if they have good high school grades, they are almost certainly going to be fine.”
Don’t be fooled, the ACT and SAT are gigantic revenue generators. According to Guidestar in 2011 the College Board (owner of SAT) generated over $759 Million in revenue and ACT, Inc. $293 Million. Together that is over a Billion dollars! Of course they both have “Not-For Profit” status. As one commentator to the NPR story said ‘There’s nothing wrong with testing as an objective proof of what one has learned. But an “aptitude test” as a “predictive indicator” of future success seems to be nothing more than a money-making industry unto itself. People aren’t “standardized,” so why in the name of sanity should testing be? Everyone had different strengths, weaknesses, understandings, and learning styles.’ Seems to bring into question the standardized testing the Federal government is trying to unjustly mandate States buying into the ‘Race to the Top’ institute for their K-12 students as a select few are made richer via the continuing ‘No Dollar Left Behind’ policy.
To me, as a parent it says I need to help my child do good throughout their school years and build a portfolio of success over time rather than focusing on developing an expertise at taking standardized tests. Perhaps she’ll take the tests when the time comes, but I’m sure not going to put any undue pressure on her to do well or take them multiple times to increase her score. Hopefully she is like me and decides she’ll do just fine without ever taking these unnecessary instruments of educational torture.