Have you been following news of the SAT and ACT scores?

Education Week, August 27 and September 3, 2008 reported that SAT scores are flat. Gaps among groups remain wide. ACT scores “dip slightly.” Are these numbers the meaningful gold standard we need? Unfortunately not. We assume reported scores reflect a standardized norm. But, alas, they no longer do. While Ed Week headlines SAT scores and the ACT’s one tenth of a point (on a 36 point scale) decline as a “slight dip,” where is mention of the approximately 2% of ALL students who take the SAT with extended time? A far higher number!CAVEAT: Unfortunately, I was unable to find current percentages for either test.

Since 2003, when the College Board (BC) faced a threatened lawsuit by disability advocates who argued against “flagging” scores that were administered with extended time, it blinked. Rather than defending its appropriate and legal reporting, the CB, owner of the SAT, settled. ACT Inc., owner of the ACT, followed suit. Test scores are no longer “flagged.” No one knows what scores mean because some (how many?) are not normed, not standardized. Apples and oranges aplenty. On the SAT, time can be extended by 50% or 100%, modifying the very test!

As an attorney who represents schools and writes and speaks nationally about testing and standards issues, I see the widespread confusion and cynicism this flawed policy causes. Who, if anyone, benefits from results whose very validity is questionable?

Rather than continuing down this path, consider three better options: (a) “Flag” scores again. (b) Give all students the choice to take tests with non standard accommodations that will be flagged. Or, (c) if time really does not matter, simply untime everyone’s tests. These steps can return trust, fairness, and validity.

Public reporting is overdue, even as we ponder flat scores, wide gaps, and slight dips.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About Miriam

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, JD, MA—an expert in public education, focused on special education law— is a lawyer, author, speaker, consultant, and reformer. For more than 35 years, Miriam worked with educators, parents, policy makers, and citizens to translate complex legalese into plain English and focus on good practices for children. Now, she focuses her passion on reforming special education, with her new book, Special Education 2.0—Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law. Presentations include those at the AASA Conference, Orange County (CA), Boston College (MA), CADRE (OR), and the Fordham Institute (DC). Her writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Education Week, Education Next, Hoover Digest, The University of Chicago Law Review on line, DianeRavitch.net, and The Atlantic Monthly on line.

No Comments

Be the first to start a conversation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *