The Stupidity Aptitude Test

I can’t help getting angry when people talk about standardized testing for college admission or for high school evaluation. It’s simply idiotic to think that a high-stakes test can tell us anything about anything in this day and age, especially when we know more than every about the highly individualized learning differences among our students. The changes to the SAT are about as witless as I can imagine and they certainly will mostly make the College Board rich, if nothing else. (And who besides the College Board itself says how wonderful their test is? According to a researcher I asked about this at the CB “conference,” “No one.” If a university conducted studies of a new drug using funds supplied by the drug’s manufacturer, wouldn’t you be sceptical of the results?? Funny, no one seems to be in this case and hundreds of millions of dollars are riding on it.)

There are plenty of good books out there that show the problems with high stakes testing, including Standardized Minds by Peter Sacks, The Big Test by Nicholas Lemann, Contradictions of School Reform by Linda McNeil, and The Case Against Standardized Testing by Alfie Kohn. But the machinery of the College Board is vast and all-consuming nad we as Americans have bought into the testing canard for so long it looks like the real thing.

George W. Bush just came out for using only “merit” in college admission—he of Yale birthright—but does a standardized test really say anything about one’s “merit?” And what does that word mean, anyway, in terms of one’s acceptability to college? These are great unexamined questions we need to deal with, but I’m not sure anyone has the courage.

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About Will Dix

I am currently writing a book about college admission. I'm interested in the intersection of the college process and American culture. I attended Amherst College in the 1970s, taught high school English and theater at The Hill School in the '80s, returned to Amherst in the '90s as an admission dean, and began the '00s as a college counselor at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. I then joined Chicago Scholars as Program Director. Currently, I blog about college admission for Forbes.com. I also help community organizations serving low income students understand the college admission process so more students can consider gaining access to higher education. I have a few private college counseling clients that I take by referral only. The views expressed in this blog are mine alone.
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