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Challenge to a Critique of SAT Scores

December 08, 1985

John Tagg's distorted critique of SAT scores ("Down Side of Rising SAT Scores, Nov. 24) should not go unchallenged. His belief that "there's not much call" for the information that the SAT appraises is absurd. Mastery of the information of which the SAT measures a representative sample is basic to academic success in college. To say otherwise, as Tagg does, reflects an ignorance or an unreasonable rejection of the many well-designed studies that come to this conclusion.

Equally ridiculous is Tagg's contention that colleges which utilize SAT scores for the above purpose think that "there's one right answer and once you've got it, you're done." To the contrary, satisfactory SAT scores are seen as indicators that students have the academic information needed to attain the higher-level critical thinking skills that college work is designed to develop.

Also untrue is Tagg's implication that the great thinkers over time were ignorant of the kinds of information that the SAT surveys, that they "began not by giving answers." Almost all the great thinkers had records showing an impressive mastery of formal academic information, that they did, in fact, begin by proving they could give answers to questions about this material.

The truth is that the SAT, and similar verified tests of academic aptitude, are convenient, reliable, quick and unbiased ways to determine if students possess the formal academic knowledge shown to be necessary for the attainment of a college degree. It is significant that Tagg offers no valid alternative means of determining this.

PATRICK GROFF

San Diego

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