Note: all of this was going to be a comment on this post at The Fat Envelope Blog but after I typed it all up I got server error after server error trying to submit it. Because I was so sufficiently fired up, I decided to post it here instead. My apologies if you didn’t come here for politics. We’ll be back to regularly scheduled math shortly.

The backstory, if you don’t want to click over, is that a columnist I’d not heard of before today, Linda Chavez, wrote a truly scummy piece in which she used the unending debate about the SAT as a bludgeon to further her political agenda. 

I’m not a proponent of abolishing the test (far from it!) but Ms. Chavez’s piece is…awful. Just awful. And biased as the day is long. She approaches the entire debate from a political standpoint, not an educational one. If the elephants on the page weren’t enough to clue you in, she reveals her agenda quite clearly here (my emphasis):

The movement away from requiring the SAT has picked up steam in the last few years, ostensibly driven by the desire to increase racial and ethnic diversity at colleges. If it’s true, this would be troubling enough, since the desire to achieve a predetermined ethnic or racial mix should play no role in determining who gets into college. But, in any event, the real motive behind the SAT-optional movement is more complicated and self-serving.

She then proceeds to follow a very familiar blueprint: claim that your opponent has “very little” evidence, and offer even less of your own.  A note to Ms. Chavez: the amount of time and money ETS has spent recalibrating the test is no more evidence of the SAT’s fairness than are racial discrepancies evidence of its unfairness. Would that it were true that throwing money at a problem would always fix it!

The only evidence she offers of the SAT’s predictive ability is a “carefully done meta-analysis” that I just spent 30 minutes looking for and could not find. That’s a shame. I bet it’s a great read. I’ll keep looking, I guess.

One last note: the assertion at the end of the piece about the “high irony” of the whole situation reeks of ignorance (if I’m being charitable).

This is a sloppy, loathsome piece all the way through, and shame on any real newspaper that syndicated it (though again, thankfully, I’m not seeing many in my quick Google search).

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