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Examining SAT Further

August 07, 2004

John Katzman, Andy Lutz and Jon Hein of the Princeton Review (a SAT prep company) mock the College Board's plan to score student essays on the new SAT "holistically" ("New SAT Is So Old School," Opinion, Aug. 1). They compare the holistic scoring of short 25-minute essays to "measur(ing) ... karma" and to "taking only the first few pills of a course of antibiotics." Huh? Based on these misleading and truly bizarre analogies, I suppose it's a good thing for all present and future Princeton Review customers that the new SAT will omit verbal analogy questions.

Holistic scoring of a 25-minute essay is a rough measure, but it provides reasonably accurate and reasonably rich information about a writer's ability in a number of areas (grammar, vocabulary, coherence, idea development, etc.). Katzman, Lutz and Hein -- together with interested high school students, parents and teachers -- may want to visit the College Board's website, which devotes several pages to explaining holistic scoring with many helpful examples.

Paul Morsink

Los Angeles


Though I agree with the authors' general critique of the SAT, old or new, I take exception to their invocation of the hackneyed image of the "harried English teacher" who, because "she" has a heavy workload, apparently hopes that all test takers will avoid taking "rhetorical chances."

The authors' easy association of a specifically female teacher with an inability to manage work successfully and, more insultingly, with a resistance to engaging with creative writing offends those of us who have been extraordinarily busy, yet never harried; and who feel something akin to joy when we encounter student writing that is distinctive, challenging and rhetorically sophisticated -- qualities certainly lacking in the prose of these three authors.

Jane Osick



I believe that the best change regarding the SAT would be to do away with it. The SAT has been plaguing college-bound students for decades as a one-time, stress-inducing "hoop" to jump through as the testing monopolies pull in enormous profits year after year.

At our school we would never implement a program that did not affect our mission of infusing our students with a sense of lifelong learning. We would never implement a program that did not feed our mission of teaching for a depth of understanding, thus enabling our students to make responsible intellectual and moral decisions in an increasingly complex and dangerous world. I offer that the SAT provides none of these attributes for our students.

The SAT needs to go. But this will not occur until college admissions departments have the courage and conviction to stand up to an ominous testing corporation to do what is in the best interests of families everywhere in America.

Kirk Duncan



Gosh and golly gee. I'm so glad to have read "They SAT, Then Wrote" (editorial, Aug. 1) because now I know that no one cares whether people have college degrees. As a college instructor myself for a number of years, I had the impression that I was helping my students. Now that I know that a degree is just "a piece of paper no one will ever ask to see," I can quit worrying about lesson plans, grading and trying to get my students to think about their future.

It seems to me that in the interest of having something quirky and entertaining on the editorial page, The Times is arguing that a college degree and indeed education itself has no value. And I'm not quite sure what to say to friends of mine who have in the past several years found themselves unemployed because they lacked a degree. Each one of them has told me how not having a college degree has limited their chances to succeed, to be able to support their families and to have a job that makes them feel fulfilled. Guess I have to call them all up today and tell them that college doesn't matter, that education isn't that silver bullet to a better life, and that they can forget about urging their children to stay in school.

Devorah Knaff


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