George Soros and dumbed-down education

Education — By on February 13, 2009 at 7:46 pm

It’s getting easier and easier to get into college these days. Standards are dropping, and the quality of the average college education pales in comparison to what your great grandparents probably received just a few generations ago.
Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to change anytime soon, especially if George Soros and the other radical financial backers of Fair Test get their way.
Fair Test, also known as the National Center for Fair and Accurate Testing, has an enormous amount of influence on college admissions policies. This is especially disturbing when you realize just how little actual expertise the Fair Test staff has.
Fair Test advocates the removal of standardized testing as a college admissions policy, despite evidence that this would artificially inflate the scores of those who do take the tests:

Studies show that when testing is optional, national averages for SAT scores are skewed and this could disrupt college admission standards across the country and run a risk of lowering standards overall. A recent LA Times editorial said it well: “Admissions standards could stand a bit of modification, but not at the expense of academics.”

George Soros has contributed a lot of money to Fair Test in the past few years, money which has helped Fair Test in their quest to lower college admissions standards by making standardized testing optional. Soros, who has also funded such projects as moveon.org, has a history of funding radical left-wing projects, and of ensuring that this funding helps promote his own ideals. Fair Test is also supported by the Woods Fund, which in turn is supported by no less than domestic terrorist William Ayres himself – he sits on their board.

George Soros and William Ayres have an awful lot of influence on our nation’s college admissions standards, even if somewhat indirectly. Do we really want men like them determining the kind of education our college students receive?


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  • gina p.

    An “awful lot of influence” “if somewhat indirectly”? That’s like saying George Bush was somewhat influenced by his grandfather, who wanted to overthrown the US government and financially supported Hitler. Your assertion is based on what? That these individuals know each other? This post is science fiction at its worst. Do your homework next time.

  • http://wheatstoneforum.com Rachel Motte

    Gina,
    Um, no, not the same thing. Soros in particular likes to give money to organizations that in turn will promote his own ideas. And Ayres sits on the board of another organization that supports Fair Test, so it’s safe to assume that he gets to help decide where their money goes.
    By ‘indirect’ I pretty much mean ‘behind the scenes.’ I thought that was clear but apparently you never know!
    Their influence is no less important for being behind-the-scenes.

  • Steve D

    One of the problems with standardized testing (SAT,ACT) is that they are only indicative of a student’s performance in the first semester of college. I would question your thesis that college admissions would be “dumbed down” since the tests do not predict performance beyond the first semester. More and more colleges and universities are relying less on standardized tests as the sole arbitor of admission. Other factors such as overall high school grades, extra-curricular activities, community service, and personal interviews are starting to get more weight for admissions counselors. This tends to produce a more well rounded and more successful college student.

  • http://pugnaciousirishman.wordpress.com Rich Bordner

    My question: if college admissions boards do away with standardized tests as a criteria, what are they going to replace them with that more accurately gauges academic skills?
    How about “life experience”? GAH! That phrase (and phrases like it) are educational play doh: folks can make that into whatever they want.
    Also, as a teacher in an inner-city school, I can plainly see that the solution to my students’ woes isn’t to do away with standardized tests in college admissions. Pontificating on how “unfair and biased” these tests are is a waste of time and energy. We need to be spending ourselves on actually raising expectations *before* they get to college.
    Less politics of grievance, more homework.

  • bob

    Ha! I think the word is irony. Many states are not requiring or thinking of requiring high school students to take the ACT as part of their high school graduation requirement.
    The one comment about the tests being indicative of early ability in college is informative. My ACT/SAT scores were not that great, and yet, when we took a similar one after my sophomore year, my biology professor who administered it was quite surprised when I place in the top. So, obviously, the ACT/SAT test didn’t quite predict my ability.
    Unfortunately, many students today are not able to finish their first year in college.
    Colleges can lower their standards, and students who are not capable of college level academics will still fail to succeed. That will be the heritage of Soros and his ilk.

  • Chris L.

    The SAT/ACT are good indicators of college performance. Good does not mean perfect. There will always be people who perform wildly different from their test scores.
    The whole emphasis on non-standard methods of evaluating collect entrance is really driven by the desire to admit more non-Asian minority candidates. It’s no coincidence that this has started happening as laws and court rulings have limited the use of racial quotas.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    So did Rachel learn ‘reasoning by boogeyman’ in her college logic course or is that just the preferred style now among the post-Obama right?

  • ex-preacher

    This post has so many flaws that it’s hard to know where to begin.
    How about this statement: “the quality of the average college education pales in comparison to what your great grandparents probably received just a few generations ago.”
    Got any proof for this sweeping generalization? The vast majority of Americans four generations ago didn’t even go to college. Here are some numbers from the Census Bureau:
    In 1940 (let’s call this three generations ago), a mere 4.6% of Americans aged 25 and up had a bachelor’s degree. In fact, only 24.5% of adult Americans had a High School diploma. If you were white, the odds you finished high school went up slightly to 26.1%. Only 7.7% of black adults had a high school diploma. Only 1.3% of black adults had a college diploma.
    If we go back another generation to 1920, only 3% of Americans had a college degree and only 13% even had a high school diploma.
    The central flaw in this post is that the claim of a “dumbed down” college education is never even addressed. Instead, you claim that college admissions standards have been lowered.
    Once upon a time, college was only for the very wealthy and/or the very gifted. The history of higher education in this country has been to expand the number of people who can go to college. Obviously this means that people are getting in now who couldn’t have gotten in when college was reserved for the intellectually and financially elite.
    Furthermore, there’s a huge difference between being admitted to college and graduating with a degree.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    My question: if college admissions boards do away with standardized tests as a criteria, what are they going to replace them with that more accurately gauges academic skills?
    Perhaps Rachel can answer that question since she pines for the days of her grandfather’s admissions policies. I do assume she is aware that mass testing and reducing such decisions down into a single metric is a somewhat new innovation. In the days before Excel spreadsheets, it actually took a lot of work to, say, conduct serious regressions on test scores versus grades or to even do something relatively simple like sort a thousand scores from highest to lowest.
    Several things are missing here:
    1. The assumption that the education itself is worthless. This post seems to assume that colleges are unable to actually impact students. Students who benefit from college do so not because the college gave them anything beneficial but because they came to the school already possessing some magic gift that allowed them to use college. If you put a pool stick in front of four people, the person who does the most impressive work with it is going to be the guy who already knew how to play pool very well. The stick isn’t going to make anyone a better or worse player. But one would hope that college is a bit more of a two way street. Of course this idea goes out the window when the topic switches to liberal bias in colleges. Then all in the sudden students are putty and the all powerful college shapes their views, with the exception of those super-smart types who are ‘independent’ enough to join the college Republicans (we helpfully know they are super smart because they spend their time telling us they are). If colleges are so powerful then who cares if stupid people get in?
    2. Total ignorance of what we know about the most important rule of metrics – Garbage in Garbage out: The SAT/ACT are somewhat decent predictors of performance. Unfortunately, Excel disease probably gives them too much weight. It is much, much easier to sort a thousand test scores than it is to read and comprehend a thousand essays and three thousand letters of recommendation and a thousand interview notes. The value of the SAT/ACT can easily be overweighted and this post gives us absolutely no reason to assume it isn’t.
    3. A pretty unconservative appreciation on what college’s have been- College’s traditionally have not been meritocacies. Go back to your grandfather’s day (actually great-grandfather’s) and you’ll note the colleges were about merit but also about classism. Many years ago colleges actually worried about being ‘too brainy’ and hyped athletics and imposed quotas on Jews. Now nobody wants to return to that but a conservative should be the one pointing out that we never had a vote here on colleges redefining their mission to be nothing more than a club for those who score the highest.
    I think ideally a college should, of course, concentrate on academics but at the same time there’s a synergy in bringing together different types of people. I don’t think a college made up of only perfect scores on the SAT would be some type of ideal Olympian academy. Rather I think it would be a hellish hothouse of untra-risk adverse group thinking nerds. No corporation would ever seriously staff their top positions that way and nor should a college IMO.
    I wouldn’t eliminate the SAT/ACT for competitive colleges but I think it is perfectly reasonable to have a serious debate that questions what the limits of standardized tests are and how much weight they should really be given. Not too long ago the economy thought it was perfectly sensible to bet trillions of dollars on debt that got the equilivant of a ‘perfect SAT score’. I think it’s quite sensible to question whether the SAT/ACT system is really a way to boil merit down to a number or if it is more of a cheap and easy way to come up with a number for the sake of having a number. It’s kind of sad that conservatives here would rather demonize anyone who actually want to have a serious debate about this. That is made up, though, by the amusing view of conservatives who are so entirely ignorant of not only their own history but history in general. If Rachel’s conservative great-grandfather was visited by a time traveler who told him they were fighting for college admissions to be decided solely by standardized tests graded by a computer somehow I don’t think he would find her to have a shared ideology.

  • http://willohroots.wordpress.com willoh

    I agree with Rachel. Back in 72 I was a high scorer on the SAT. i got a free ride to the school of my choice. I was a lousy scholar, but I got a 3.5 avg. I worked a decade ago in a junior college teaching. My daughter is in college now. The education is going down hill. I found a high school final exam from 1917 at an antique store. Most of today’s college students would never pass it. Ask a kid in school today geography, History of the 20th century, few have a clue. Soros and his ilk need a dumbed down population for their ideas of social “justice” to play out. Education has enough problems today so the answer to Rachel’s question is a resounding, “NO!”.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    From 1900 to about 1920 the HS Graduation rate was 10% or less (see http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/05-03-2201.pdf for example). Today the figure is somewhere around 75% (see http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/930).
    So the first question to ask isn’t whether 75% can pass your 1917 final exam but whether the top 10-15% of the population could. If they can then the US educational system is educating at least as much now as it was in 1917 (and that’s percentage wise, in terms of shear numbers it would be more since the population was smaller in 1917).
    The second question to ask is was the subjects being tested in 1917 the subjects being taught today? Most of us have never had a geography course, for example. When I was younger trig was a major part of higher level math but statistics wasn’t. When I did some tutoring a while back I noticed that trig seemed to be getting less emphasis in the high school level but stats topics like probablity, combinations and factorials were added. I would imagine subjects like Latin/Greek, agricultural sciences etc. would have been a larger part of 1900 HS education but not today.
    Are we a more educated population today than in 1917? Yes. If nothing else, the fact that our literacy rates are much higher indicates for every hundred people today you will encounter more who can communicate with written language than you could 100 years ago. Likewise for technical fields you’re going to find higher rates of education. Per hundred people you will find more today who can understand and articulate a complex field like, say, chemistry than you would have in 1900. In the rawest possible term, we produce more & consume more text per person today than we did a hundred years ago. Text production and consumption by definition requires an educated population.
    I think only in very limited areas can you make a case for a decline in education. I’m sure per 100 people there are fewer who can handle Latin or ancient Greek than in 1900. Although I’m not sure this would work in terms of raw numbers due to population growth alone. There are probably as many people today who could translate a piece of ancient Greek or Latin as there were in 1900. But if you insist I’m willing to concede we probably have fewer people today who could write a scholarly article in Latin than there were in 1900.
    But then again if you think 1917 was a period of exceptional educational achievement then explain how that was accomplished without the SAT? If you think the last 30 years have especially been a period of educational decline then explain why this post’s impassioned defense of the SAT is justified given that the SAT/ACT has wielded more, not less influence?

  • Steve D

    First, the aim of education has changed slightly over the years. Our access to information from a wide variety if sources has modified what students need to know in order to survive and thrive in this world. Information doesn’t necessarily have to be memorized. However, it is necessary to understand where to find information and how to process that information. What is commonly called critical thinking. So a comparison between 1917 and today might find that students in the early 1900’s didn’t have as ready access to information as today. More emphasis then was put on rote memorization and less on a reasoning process. How important is it to be able to memorize multiplication tables when calculators are readily available? Isn’t it much more important to understand the concept of multiplication than to memrize the answers?
    Second, by de-emphasizing the standardized tests, some colleges and universities have found that they actually get a more successful and well rounded student. There’s a lot more to college than just going to class. In many majors there are extra-curricular activities that help to bolster the straight classroom learning. Not to mention that college presents different social situations than in high school.
    SATs and ACTs are not sacrosanct. They are one set of tools in the proverbial toolbox. One, by the way, that has been in question since I took them some 34 yeasr ago.

  • ucfengr

    Are we a more educated population today than in 1917? Yes. If nothing else, the fact that our literacy rates are much higher indicates for every hundred people today you will encounter more who can communicate with written language than you could 100 years ago.
    The fact that more people can read People or Us magazines now than 100 years ago doesn’t necessarily mean people are more educated now than then.

  • Steve D

    The fact that more people can read People or Us magazines now than 100 years ago doesn’t necessarily mean people are more educated now than then.
    Actually, it does.The illiteracy rate in 1900 as 20% and now is less than 1% (see http://nces.ed.gov/naal/lit_history.asp ).
    Literacy assumes the ability to learn. Even if one does not go to further education, literacy still gives a person the possibility to progress. An illiterate person really cannot learn on their own.
    This is actually a case in point. I didn’t know those stats off the top of my head. A Google search gave me the ability to find those facts from an accurate source. Once again, it’s the ability to find the information that’s more important than having the information memorized.

  • ucfengr

    Literacy assumes the ability to learn.
    The ability to read is not a requirement for learning.
    An illiterate person really cannot learn on their own.
    Neither can a literate person. All people learn from others. Literacy merely gives a person another medium for gaining knowledge. In other words, I don’t need direct contact with the subject matter expert. People learned things long before there was a written word.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    ucfengr
    The ability to read is not a requirement for learning.
    You have done your best to demonstrate this with just about every comment you’ve made on t his blog. But while you are technically correct the fact of the matter is the ability to read does help a lot in learning.
    At this point I have to wonder exactly what the ‘other side’ here actually believes. If the ability to read isn’t necessary for learning then why are we getting so upset over downgrading the SAT? Newsflash, you need to be able to read to take the SAT, let alone score well on it.
    The fact that more people can read People or Us magazines now than 100 years ago doesn’t necessarily mean people are more educated now than then.
    They didn’t have gossip 100 years ago? Let me guess, ucfengr thinks 100 years ago everyone sat around talking like William F Buckley all day long.

  • Steve D

    The ability to read is not a requirement for learning.
    I wasn’t just talking about reading necessarily. Literacy assumes a level of comprehension. Thought (especially higher reasoning) needs some sort of language pattern. Literacy is the ability to comprehend and understand both written and spoken communication. A blind person can be literate without reading.
    But then again, the original post is about the use of a test that is supposed to show whether or not a person can read, comprehend, and reason.
    Actually, I’m a little confused. The ability to read, comprehend, and learn has gone up remarkably in the past 100 or so years. We send more people to college than we did 100 years ago. What exactly is your complaint? Tests cannot be the only indicator of acceptance to an institution. Again, tests are a tool, a tool that needs to be refined to be useful.

  • Steve D

    The ability to read is not a requirement for learning.
    I wasn’t just talking about reading necessarily. Literacy assumes a level of comprehension. Thought (especially higher reasoning) needs some sort of language pattern. Literacy is the ability to comprehend and understand both written and spoken communication. A blind person can be literate without reading.
    But then again, the original post is about the use of a test that is supposed to show whether or not a person can read, comprehend, and reason.
    Actually, I’m a little confused. The ability to read, comprehend, and learn has gone up remarkably in the past 100 or so years. We send more people to college than we did 100 years ago. What exactly is your complaint? Tests cannot be the only indicator of acceptance to an institution. Again, tests are a tool, a tool that needs to be refined to be useful.

  • ucfengr

    You have done your best to demonstrate this with just about every comment you’ve made on t his blog.
    I’m not sure what the point of this is. If you think I am stupid and uneducated, why bother responding? Didn’t your mother ever tell you “Never argue with an idiot, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”?
    But while you are technically correct the fact of the matter is the ability to read does help a lot in learning.
    The only thing I was pointing out is that literacy is not a very useful metric for measuring education. If you want to make the case that being able to read the “National Enquirer” or “People” is a sign of education, feel free, but I don’t buy it.
    They didn’t have gossip 100 years ago? Let me guess, ucfengr thinks 100 years ago everyone sat around talking like William F Buckley all day long.
    What I was pointing out is that people managed to learn before there was a written word, let alone before most could make use of it. The written word is one medium for communicating knowledge, but it is not the only one. How typical of you to completely miss the point.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I’m not sure what the point of this is. If you think I am stupid and uneducated, why bother responding? Didn’t your mother ever tell you “Never argue with an idiot, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”?
    Yes but then sometimes the difference is just too big not to notice.
    The only thing I was pointing out is that literacy is not a very useful metric for measuring education.
    Here ucfengr establishes himself as a pure idiot.
    If you want to make the case that being able to read the “National Enquirer” or “People” is a sign of education, feel free, but I don’t buy it.
    How about people who have read Joyce, Shakespeare, Faulkner, Updike, Pynchon, Twain, James etc.? For any random sample of 100 people you will find more today who have read those authors than 100 years ago (discount, of course, authors like Joyce who hadn’t written yet 100 years ago) just as you’ll find more people per 100 who read People versus people per 100 who read whatever the functional equilivant was 100 years ago.
    What I was pointing out is that people managed to learn before there was a written word, let alone before most could make use of it. The written word is one medium for communicating knowledge, but it is not the only one.
    This is true and I’d be happy to entertain the idea that we have vastly increased one type of learning, text based, at the expense of other types (such as the hands on learning of an apprentice from a master). It would be hard, IMO, to argue that the total amount of learning has gone down, though. For many types of knowledge text is vastly superior in spreading itself. A master can only teach a handful of apprentices at a time and he is still limited by his mortality. Text, though, is cheap to produce and consume and has no mortality. More people can and have read Mark Twain, for example, than Twain could have ever entertained with stories around a campfire during his life and a lot of non-text can be partially for fully converted into text. See for example the work of Homer which was originally an oral based tradition that has since become text.
    But back to the point, the SAT is clearly centered in a paradign of text based learning. If you’re arguing for us to look at a more holistic view of learning beyond just text then it would seem that you’d be more comfortable with George Soros’s side of this debate.

  • Ken

    “The second question to ask is was the subjects being tested in 1917 the subjects being taught today?”
    Probably not. They used to teach grammar.

  • ucfengr

    Yes but then sometimes the difference is just too big not to notice.
    I think we agree here, but from a different perspective.
    Here ucfengr establishes himself as a pure idiot.
    Really? Care to explain how? You are operating under the assumption that literate = educated, but you’ve offered no evidence to support its validity. How is disagreeing with your unsupported assumption idiotic?
    How about people who have read Joyce, Shakespeare, Faulkner, Updike, Pynchon, Twain, James etc.? For any random sample of 100 people you will find more today who have read those authors than 100 years ago
    This seems be an example of what might be called “The Wizard of Oz” fallacy, that conferring a degree is the same as conferring an education. It’s not. Reading Faulkner or Updike and retaining the information long enough to do a “brain dump” on test day is not really the same thing as learning something, but it is enough to earn a diploma.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Either way we are more educated today than in 1917. Whether you want to measure ‘retain enough to pass a test’ or whether you want to measure ‘retain enough to metaphysically, totally, purely, fully appreciate the work for the rest of your life’ we still have more people per 100 today that fit that criteria than there were in 1917.
    I’ll again point out that there seems to be no one really defending Rachel’s post here. Ucfengr’s arguments seem, if anything, to argue in favor of Soros’ anti-SAT stance.

  • pentamom

    “So the first question to ask isn’t whether 75% can pass your 1917 final exam but whether the top 10-15% of the population could.”
    Um, no. If you’re trying to assess the education level of the population as a whole, sure. But if you’re trying to assess the quality of the education that those who are receiving it actually receive, which I’m pretty sure is what this post is about, you compare like with like: high school graduates with high school graduates. If high school graduates cannot pass a high school graduation test from the past, then obviously a high school education is either inferior, or focused on a completely different set of knowledge. Since I’d think that some overlap would be inevitable, a 75% failure rate is certainly a sign of SOMETHING.

  • ucfengr

    Either way we are more educated today than in 1917.
    Essentially what you are saying is that more people have high school diplomas now than they did in 1917. I agree, but that’s not the same thing as being educated unless your only metric is “time spent in school”. “Book larnin'” is one medium for the transmission of knowledge, but it isn’t the only.
    Ucfengr’s arguments seem, if anything, to argue in favor of Soros’ anti-SAT stance.
    If I recall, success on the SAT was a pretty good predictor of success in college. If that is the case, than I would count myself in the pro-SAT camp.

  • Steve D

    Reading Faulkner or Updike and retaining the information long enough to do a “brain dump” on test day is not really the same thing as learning something, but it is enough to earn a diploma.
    Which is why people like Soros have problems with tests like the SAT and ACT. Tests are not totally accurate predictors of future success. Since not all people take tests in the same way.
    Welcome to the dark side…we have cookies

  • Steve D

    If I recall, success on the SAT was a pretty good predictor of success in college. If that is the case, than I would count myself in the pro-SAT camp.
    Actually they only predict for the first semester. After that, it is impossible to correlate, since there are new factors. Again, the SAT is a limited assessment tool.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    entamom
    “Um, no. If you’re trying to assess the education level of the population as a whole, sure. But if you’re trying to assess the quality of the education that those who are receiving it actually receive”
    Actually you’re just assessing whether a 1917 High School diploma is the same as a 2008 one. But if you’re talking about the education of the entire population then it means something that 20% of the population couldn’t read then while 1% can’t now. If 10% of the population could pass the 1917 test then and 10% now then that indicates no decline. But what about the 90% of the population that didn’t even take the test? You are comparing the elite of 1917 with the common person today and I think that’s basically setting the goal posts to prove your desired thesis rather than making an apples to apples comparison.
    ucfengr
    “Essentially what you are saying is that more people have high school diplomas now than they did in 1917.”
    No that’s not what I’m saying. What I said is very clear and saying it more than a few times is sufficient for you to get it.
    What’s inexplicable is what you’re trying to say. As far as I can tell you’re saying we are not as well educated today because enough people enjoy reading People Magazine to keep it in business. Your argument seems to be nothing more than pure elitism. You assume a person who is well educated would never lower himself to read People, therefore because people read People today they must not be well educated. (Keep this up and Sarah Palin is going to cancel your membership in the anti-elitist elite club). You clearly have an inflated view of popular literature from the turn of the century and previous eras. There was plenty of material like People back then and even worse. You do know, for example, that tabloids got their start over a hundred years ago because newspapers discovered they could tap a large market of people who either couldn’t read or read very little but enjoyed the large lurid pictures?
    If I recall, success on the SAT was a pretty good predictor of success in college. If that is the case, than I would count myself in the pro-SAT camp.
    TRANSLATION: Nevermind that I just spent half a dozen posts going in the exact opposite direction only to come around and indicate I’m barely paying attention to this thread. I just enjoy wasting your time.

  • ucfengr

    Which is why people like Soros have problems with tests like the SAT and ACT.
    The SAT is a bit different from your typical history test in that it is a comprehensive exam of several years of education, not a two-week lesson plan. Its a little bit harder to do a “cram and dump” of the material.
    No that’s not what I’m saying.
    I am not convinced you know what you are saying.
    As far as I can tell you’re saying we are not as well educated today because enough people enjoy reading People Magazine to keep it in business.
    You certainly don’t know what I am saying. All I said is that literacy is an inadequate metric for measuring education. You’ve done nothing to demonstrate that it is. The ability to read a book on fixing cars does nothing for my ability to fix cars, until I actually read the book.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    1. While doing a ‘cram and dump’ for the SAT is tricky I’m not certain it isn’t done now. There’s a nice little niche industry of ‘SAT prep’ and I’m not sure it is all snake oil. Once a parent asked me to try to tutor his kid for the SAT. I basically did timed practice tests with him, reviewed items he got wrong and there did seem to be some improvement in his score both with the practice tests and when he retook the real SAT. In theory this should not have happened if the test is a pure measure of his aptitude and cannot be gamed with cramming (unless you want to say the cramming itself increases the chances that he would do good in his first college semester)
    ***1.5 This also raises the question of whether the SAT is really measuring someone’s capacity to be educated or if it is measuring someone’s capacity to play the college game. It’s cheap and easy to have a computer score a few dozen multiple choice questions and dump the results into Excel. If you’re good at that in HS you may be good at that in college. Again does anyone here think a college of nothing but top SAT scores would be a great place? I think the SAT is a bit like linear regression. It’s a great tool but its ease of use is even larger than its greatness. I would be surprised if it wasn’t being overused.
    2. Literacy is an incomplete metric for measuring education but it is beyond a doubt a potent one. No one is born able to read and write. If literacy increases it can only be because education has increased. To argue that overall education has declined in spite of literacy increasing you have to show that the losses in other areas of education are so massive that they overwhelm the gain in literacy. This is no easy feat IMO. Literacy is something very basic to our society.
    Try to imagine a devil’s bargain where our top 5% of people become many times smarter than they are now but 20% of our population will not be able to read or write. It’s pretty hard to see such a deal making sense. Well if you say the smartest people in 1917 were of much better quality than the smartest people of 2008….maybe you’re right but you still have a long way to go before you show education today is worse. Ohhh and just saying People Magazine over and over again doesn’t quite make the case. (AND BTW, just what exactly is so wrong with People anyway?)

  • Steve D

    The SAT is a bit different from your typical history test in that it is a comprehensive exam of several years of education, not a two-week lesson plan. Its a little bit harder to do a “cram and dump” of the material.
    Actually, there is a whole industry who teaches test strategies. IOW, how to take tests like the SAT/ACT. They don’t necessarily teach content, they teach how to read questions and how to make educated guesses. Having had to take various certification exams for my professional life I can attest to the fact that there are certain strategies to reading questions that will help you if you don’t know the answer.
    It might be worth while for you to read what the College Board has to say about the importance of the SAT http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/scores/understanding.html Even they admit your high school grades are most important.
    Also HOW they score the test is also informative
    http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/scores/understanding/howscored.html

  • Chris L.

    Actually they only predict for the first semester. After that, it is impossible to correlate, since there are new factors. Again, the SAT is a limited assessment tool.
    Most students drop out in their first semester of college. That makes it a very important tool. Just deciding who has the base ability is important.
    Actually, there is a whole industry who teaches test strategies…
    That’s pretty well known knowledge there. What is college though but a continuation of learning and testing. Let’s say you can improve your scores by some marginal amount with learning test taking skills. Those skills, for the most part, will be usable in your college career making you a better student. Therefore, the improved score actually correlates to improved college performance.
    It might be worth while for you to read what the College Board has to say about the importance of the SAT…
    All it says is simply that colleges have moved away from using the SATs and a sole indicator for college readiness. As discussed before, there are reasons for that. The CB isn’t discussing what they think of the validity of the test.
    Only a moron would assume that HS grades can be used. For instance, when I was in HS we had a kid transfer in from another school. His grades from the former school were A’s and B’s. He had trouble passing in our HS. The is that HS grades vary greatly because HS’ vary greatly in quality. I bet few people had as good of English, Math, and sometimes Science teachers at our HS. On the other hand, a lot of people probably had better foreign language and History instructors.
    That’s why standardized tests (SAT/ACT) are important. They provide a consistent baseline for everyone.
    Also HOW they score the test is also informative
    Yeah, they’ve adjusted the scores since the 90’s. One reason has been to hide that scores have been falling.
    To have a solid chance at success in college, you have to a certain baseline of knowledge. If you don’t have that baseline you are going to be like a sprinter who has to start 10 yards behind everyone else. Now, there are going to be a few people who can actually catch up; but most people aren’t because they’ve been lazy and will probably still be lazy in college or because they just don’t have the ability.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    That’s pretty well known knowledge there. What is college though but a continuation of learning and testing. Let’s say you can improve your scores by some marginal amount with learning test taking skills. Those skills, for the most part, will be usable in your college career making you a better student. Therefore, the improved score actually correlates to improved college performance.
    Notice the circular reasoning here. If you’re good at taking multiple choice tests you’ll do good in college. Colleges select based on who does good on multiple choice tests. The more multiple choice tests are the paradigm, the more you’ll see a ‘correlation’ between good SAT scores and good college performance.
    Only a moron would assume that HS grades can be used. For instance, when I was in HS we had a kid transfer in from another school. His grades from the former school were A’s and B’s. He had trouble passing in our HS. The is that HS grades vary greatly because HS’ vary greatly in quality. I bet few people had as good of English, Math, and sometimes Science teachers at our HS. On the other hand, a lot of people probably had better foreign language and History instructors.
    True but so what? The fact is I don’t think anyone really believes a single metric can capture everything that should be captured. I don’t think the ideal college is made up of the top SAT scores. I think the ideal college would be maybe something like 40% top SAT scores, 30% top HS grades, 20% essays/interviews/applications and maybe 10% totally random.

  • pentamom

    “But if you’re talking about the education of the entire population then it means something that 20% of the population couldn’t read then while 1% can’t now.”
    But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about what education, as it exists, accomplishes. That’s what the phrase “dumbed-down education” refers to — not to the literacy or educational level of the entire society, but to the effect of the education that is occurring. And if people who are educated to the same level know less, then it follows that the education itself is accomplishing less for the people who received it — i.e., it is dumbed down. If you want to have a conversation about the overall education of the population you can, but that doesn’t have very much to do with the topic at hand, which is the quality of the education that is occurring, not the degree to which society is being educated by any and all means.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Nevertheless you still have to make an apples to apples comparison. I suspect if you filter out the stuff that wasn’t taught in 1917 or 2008 the top 1%, 5% or 10% would probably be about equal on that test you found. What you can’t do, though, is compare 1917’s top 10% to 2008’s average person and call it a fair fight.
    But in a ‘fair fight’ I think 2008 would give 1917 a run for the money. If nothing else, the 1917 team would have to contend with the fact that knowledge is cumulative. But I also think that the education of 1917 had a steep cliff. Yes the best of the best were chuck full of knowledge. Once you left them, though, I suspect education went downhill rapidly. I think if you could visualize a graph of education today, it would be more of a steady slope.