These four charts show how the SAT favors rich, educated families
The College Board announced Wednesday that it is overhauling the SAT, dropping the timed essay and focusing less on fancy vocabulary in order to level the playing field a bit for high school students from a wider range of families. The organization's own data show that wealthier Americans, from more educated families, tend to do far better on the best. As do white and Asian Americans, and those students who had the opportunity to take the PSAT in high school before taking the SAT. Almost certainly, these four findings have common origins in that the SAT benefits families who can provide their kids with a better education and more test prep. But here are four charts that show how the SAT advantages specific demographics.This is going to be on the longish side, because this is a serious pet peeve of mine. I want to go through their charts point-by-point.
1. The first chart shows that SAT scores are highly correlated with income.
Well, duh. While they want you to think that this is some grand sign that the SAT is unfair, all it's doing is measuring what's being put in. Kids from upper class families, by and large, are pushed to succeed. They are not surrounded by signs that say "good enough", they are pushed and prodded to do better. This is not going to change no matter how much you try to make things more "fair" - motivated students who see the results of getting an education are always going to do better than those that come from families that don't work hard.
2. The second chart shows that students from educated families do better.
I'm sorry, but DUH. Educated families are more likely to put more emphasis on, get ready for it, education. They needed a study to prove this? Did they honestly think that education level didn't matter? That students coming from educated families wouldn't know the importance of doing well on tests like the SAT as an indicator of where they might go to college?
3. The third chart shows that Asians and whites get much higher scores than other ethnic groups.
Ah, yes. The SAT is horribly racist. Those evil fill-in-the-bubble tests, always discounting the answers filled in by minorities. Or, maybe, whites and asians don't penalize people for doing well, calling it "acting white" and such. Blatant generalizations are pointless and ignore all kinds of outside influences. Rather than immediate assume that it's ZOMG TEH RACISM, maybe it's more - to use their term - nuanced?
4. The fourth chart shows that taking the PSAT once or twice tends to lead to a higher score.
OMG. Practicing for something helps you do better! Alert the presses! I am positively stymied as to why anyone is surprised by this, I really am. Naturally, they immediately draw the class warfare rhetoric card:
This almost certainly reflects the fact that schools in wealthier communities do a better job of preparing students for standardized testing, including by offering PSATs.
Really? Did you check "wealthier" communities vs. "poorer" communities to see how many students had the opportunity to take the PSAT? Because that's the only way you could "almost certainly" figure out that wealth had something to do with better preparation through PSATs. Something along the lines of percent PSAT availability by wealth strata, for instance, where access to testing decreases as wealth decreases; sure, that might prove something. But saying that "taking the PSAT multiple times helps prepare students for the SAT" and "this almost certainly means wealthy students are better prepared" is a stretch.
The class warfare rhetoric is tired, bulls**t, and outright dangerous. No matter how much you dumb down the SAT, the smart, motivated kids are going to be the ones that succeed. They are more likely to come from smart, motivated families. They are not likely to come from welfare queens, trailer trash, or gangbangers - or, for that matter, ANY culture where intelligence is viewed with mistrust, disdain, or outright hatred.
Yes, it does have to do with wealth, but not in the way they want you to think. It's nothing sinister, no hooded-robe secret society plot to keep the poor downtrodden. It's leading by example, setting goals, having benchmarks, and expectations, for the most part. It's kids from successful families being pushed, prodded, and expected to do well; and conversely, kids from poor families not having those same expectations. Or, worse, being belittled, bullied, and badgered because they're too smart.
I wonder what would happen, what the chart would look like, if there was a "parental involvement" chart. Plot how the SAT scores stacked up against kids who had parents that took positive steps to interact with their kids, who helped out at the school, volunteered as coaches, etc. Parents that knew what their kids were studying in school, helped them with their homework, maybe even sat down and read a book from time to time rather than zone out in front of the TV.
Oh, I don't think they'd like that chart. They'd be utterly unable to wave the class warfare flag then. I would bet you'd see a strong correlation between parental involvement and SAT scores - and the kids whose parents weren't involved would have worse scores than ones whose parents were. It doesn't take a ton of money, but it does take a lot of time and energy. Hard to make a case for the government to step in and force people to spend more time with their kids, though.
Much easier to demand that "wealthier" people pay more to make things more "fair"...
That is all.