Posts tagged with: in the news

I have been following the SAT Cheating Scandal pretty closely since the beginning. I don’t check in on it every day or anything, but I have a Google Alert set up, so when news breaks, I peek in. Apparently Sam Eshaghoff, the kid who took the test for all those other people, is getting his 15 minutes of fame now, and recently taped an interview with 60 Minutes. He’s just as charming as you’d expect a morally bankrupt person to be. Money quote:

I mean, a kid who has a horrible grade-point average, who no matter how much he studies is going to totally bomb this test, by giving him an amazing score, I totally give him this… new lease on life. He’s going to go to a totally new college. He’s going to be bound for a totally new career and a totally new path on life.

Assignment: Are achievements diminished when they are accomplished dishonestly? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

Yep, that’s right. It’s an essay contest. But I don’t want pages and pages here. I want an SAT-length composition. Ideally, I’d like you to complete it in 25 minutes, but I don’t have any way to check you on that, so I guess we’re on the honor system. Think for a minute about how appropriate that is, given the prompt. I just got chills.

Post your essays right in the comments; I’ll accept entries until Monday. I’ll score them all, and I’ll send a free copy of the Math Guide to my favorite one. Obviously, to win, you can’t be anonymous.

UPDATE: You’re all winners. I won’t make a habit of this because I can’t afford it, but all three of you who took the time to write essays this time will get a copy of the book. See my specific comments below.

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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It’s been over a week, and still not a day goes by that I don’t see a new article bashing The College Board for its decision to use reality TV as an essay topic. The topic caught me off guard just as it did everyone else, but I can’t justify all the hand-wringing that’s occurred in the days since.

Here’s the full text of the prompt:

Reality television programs, which feature real people engaged in real activities rather than professional actors performing scripted scenes, are increasingly popular. These shows depict ordinary people competing in everything from singing and dancing to losing weight, or just living their everyday lives. Most people believe that the reality these shows portray is authentic, but they are being misled. How authentic can these shows be when producers design challenges for the participants and then editors alter filmed scenes?
Do people benefit from forms of entertainment that show so-called reality, or are such forms of entertainment harmful?

I’m of the opinion that the prompt provides even television-less students enough information to opine about the benefits/harms of reality TV, regardless of whether they partake in the shows themselves.

A lot of test prep people are up in arms about the prompt because it caught them off guard, and they’re rightfully hearing from their students who felt unprepared to answer the question. That’s unfortunate for those who paid for prep that proved ineffective, but it’s not a fault of the test, whose stated goal is to assess how well a student develops a point of view, organizes an argument, and displays mastery of grammar and style.

A lot of us in the prep world encourage students to come prepared with a few “universal” examples ready to go — classic literature or historical figures, for example — and those weren’t exactly well suited for this prompt, but there’s no rule that the SAT has to use a prompt that will help students who’ve taken prep courses succeed. In fact, I’m sure the SAT writers are quite happy to be able to foil us once in a while.

This was a tough question, but it was fair. Different essay prompts are always accompanied by slightly different scoring tables for the writing section, and if this prompt really was more difficult than the others given on the March test, that difficulty will be reflected in a more lenient scoring table.

Believe me, I’m no member of The College Board’s booster club, but I just can’t bring myself to be mad at them for this one. I just have to tip my hat to them that they threw something at me that I didn’t expect, even after all these years.

According to this article at The Princeton Review’s site, some kids from Great Neck North HS (that’s on Long Island, for those of you not from the NY metro area) are about to get SO totally busted. Can you pay someone to take the SAT for you? Yeah, I guess. Can you ever overcome the shame, guilt, and stigma if you get caught? I guess some folks are about to spend the next few years finding out.

To be clear: this kind of thing happens everywhere because some dishonest people are always scheming for ways to get ahead by paying for it instead of working for it, and some unscrupulous people are willing to do just about anything for a buck. It’s not endemic in Great Neck, and it’s not fair to the many kids there who work very hard for their scores to assume so.

I guess years of trying to shield my test papers in school have irrevocably changed me, though, because I love seeing cheaters get caught. Hence the LOL scroll.