Rethinking the SATs
"Instead of creative thinkers, we are producing anxious test takers. Teachers are teaching to the test, it's clear, and it's epidemic." PAUL NOVAK Asheville, N.C.
The move by the University Of California and other institutions to reduce the importance placed on the SATS is admirable [EDUCATION, March 12]. These schools realize that great students are not necessarily great test takers. Although the SATS are designed to measure verbal and math skills and indicate one's inherent ability, a number cannot truly define a person's intelligence. Innate ability undoubtedly plays a role in success, but hard work is just as important. For colleges to see what a student has to offer, they must look beyond test scores and into the realm of the unquantifiable. RYAN PENNING Rocky River, Ohio
You asked, "Do we want a society that rewards genes? Are we afraid of what kind of society that may be?" The U.S. is that society now. We reward the genes of physical beauty, musical and artistic talent, and athletic ability with fame, fortune and special treatment. The only genetic gift that we do not reward on its own merits is intelligence. In fact, we try our best to be politically correct by saying intelligence is not genetic. LEE T. MARCH Joplin, Mo.
Thirty years ago, when I took the SATS, you showed up on a Saturday morning and took the test. To prep, you made sure you didn't stay out late on Friday night. DAVE HAUGHEY Fort Collins, Colo.
It is ironic that we find ourselves questioning the fairness and usefulness of the SATS at a time when state-required competency exams are popping up all over. In these state exams, I see the same test-prep problems, bias, racial gaps, memorization and the same testing mania that we fault the SATS for. State-required competency exams can cause even more pressure and greater consequences, since in many states these tests are a requirement for graduation, the hurdle students must pass before they find out what college they will get into based on their SATS. SARAH CHOU Los Altos, Calif.
The SATS may not be perfect, but colleges need something besides high school transcripts to evaluate students. Two schools at which I taught were rife with grade inflation. Now I teach in college, and after a couple of weeks it's obvious to me which students' high school grades were fudged. They usually receive poor college grades and often end up dropping out because they can't handle the work. No, the SATS aren't perfect, but to admit students solely on the basis of grades earned in secondary school would turn into an unqualified disaster. CANDACE MURDOCK Rome, Ga.
How can a single test that isn't even based on school curriculums count for so much? The smartest thing to do would be to give the SATS less value. But some of the "alternatives" to the SATS unhinged my jaws. I believe that knowing mathematical formulas is still more reasonable for a standardized test than constructing Lego robots or writing cartoon captions. KAREN CHENG Plano, Texas
--Several sharp-eyed readers questioned the oddly numbered SAT scores of some of the famous folks we listed (Ben Stein, 1573; George W. Bush, 1206; Al Gore, 1335), noting that SAT numbers today are rounded off to the nearest 10. The College Board began to round off test scores only in 1970.
Death on the Farm