Do you believe the rising generation is less intelligent than their parents? I do not. I am very much aware that my children were way ahead of me in scholastic matters – and I graduated from high school with honors! My grandchildren appear to be advancing even more quickly in their education than my children did. I have noticed the same thing with my younger friends and their children. I believe that the rising generation can and will outpace their parents if the rest of us will just get out of their way!
The College Board recently announced some changes to the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the way it is scored. The board considers the changes to be “improvements” that will better gauge how students study and learn. The test will take less time, consist of multiple-choices questions, and will not require a written essay. In addition, students will no longer be penalized for wrong answers.
The changes may be the result of Common Core Curriculum, which threatens to dumb down our students. The changes may have been made because increasing numbers of students are opting to take the American College Test (ACT) rather than the SAT. The changes may have been made to level the “tilted” playing field between students who come from wealthy families and poorer students. College Board President David Coleman – who also worked on the Common Core Curriculum - appears to believe that more wealthy students are “buying” their way into college. “These patterns of access, if allowed to continue, will build an iron wall of inequality into the next generation.”
It appears that President Coleman and others believe that they can increase the numbers of students attending college if they dumb down the entry exams. He does not appear to care that the additional students will not be prepared for college work. Since the test will no longer include rich vocabulary words, difficult math questions, or a written essay, less-qualified students will be entering college. How will they compete in college? Can you say “remedial classes”? Can you say “drop outs”?
What are the differences betweenthe SAT and the ACT? Generally, the ACT strives to assess the knowledge a student has acquired and focuses on subjects and skills taught in high school. The SAT tries to assess a student’s reasoning ability and test-taking skills and uses tricky questions and confusing phrasing to determine this information. The SAT also tests for how well the student does under pressure and how quickly the student can identify what is being asked.
In past years the ACT included some questions about trigonometry, but the SAT did not; the ACT included a science reasoning test, but the SAT did not. The SAT asked questions in an order of difficulty; the ACT did not. The SAT tested more vocabulary than the ACT; the ACT tested English grammar, but the SAT did not. The ACT was multiple choice; the SAT was not. The SAT had a penalty for wrong answers, but the ACT did not. The ACT was more content-based, and the SAT tested critical thinking and problem solving.
All of my children took both the SAT and the ACT because different universities required different tests. This meant that they were tested in both the knowledge they had acquired in high school as well as their skills in solving problems and thinking critically. Why do we need two tests that test the same information? Why do we not want college students that know how to compose coherent sentences? Why do we not want college students who know how to think and analyze? Why do people think that “wealthy” students do better than poorer students simply because they are wealthy?
Does anyone consider the fact that the better off parents are probably better educated than the parents in poorer families? I know that better educated parents help their children with their education much better than parents who are not educated. My college-educated children are greatly involved in the education of my grandchildren, whether it is helping in the classroom, with the PTA, or checking their homework.
I believe that dumbing down the SAT in order for more students to enter college is a bad idea. I believe that it would be so much better to teach the students what they need to know in order to pass the more rigid test. We need to help them learn to write coherent sentences. We need to help them learn to solve problems and think critically. We need to have good teachers and good schools – from kindergarten to high school – for both the wealthy and poor children and youth. We need parents who are involved in the education of their children. Dumbing down the college entrance exams will not take the place of good parents, good schools, and good teachers.