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Forget another test

August 14, 2008

Re "SAT maker plans new test to assess 8th-grade students," Aug. 8

As a college admissions counselor, the fact that the College Board has come up with yet another way to put pressure on students infuriates me.

If you think 13- and 14-year-old education-savvy kids haven't begun to worry about getting into college, think again. These kids aren't stupid, but what separates them from high school students is a cognitive inability to handle the stress of yet another measure of their "success." This is especially tragic for students from traditionally underserved populations who might perceive such a test as yet another reason not to consider themselves college material.

I think any money earmarked to administer such a test would be better spent on improving the quality of education.

Melanie Rome

Tarzana

Some years ago, my colleague, the late professor Earl Coddington of the UCLA mathematics department, did a careful statistical study of which aspect of the UCLA entering-freshmen's academic records best correlated with subsequent performance as a UCLA mathematics student.

SAT scores had a very low correlation with performance at UCLA. The statistical correlation was positive -- better scores were vaguely connected with better grades at UCLA -- but the connection was very weak. By far the best predictor, and one with a very strong correlation with performance, was high school grades. About the only thing well predicted by standardized tests seemed to be the ability to take similar standardized tests later on (good SAT, good GRE.)

Before the American educational establishment sinks even further into the morass of standardized testing, perhaps there should be a more systematic and unbiased investigation of whether these tests are identifying potential to do anything at all -- except to do well on other tests in the future.

Robert E. Greene

Pacific Palisades

Is there no end to stupidity in education? One testing company wants to test eighth-graders. A rival says, "Eighth grade is not the key year for college assessment. It's sixth grade." Please tell me that's a misprint!

Let's test the kindergartners and set up college prep portfolios for first-graders. Send all nonstellar second-graders to the factories and fields. Horrid idea? Yes, but so are the suggestions in your article. We are systematically ruining any love of learning that we are supposed to be fostering.

Ann Bourman

Los Angeles

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