SAT Alternative

People send me lots of stuff from the Times, it seems.

The headline is flippant and kind of annoying, honestly, but it’s not wrong.

I’m always a fan of having multiple ways to do something. (Except when it comes to XML. Don’t get me started.) I think the idea that you can turn in a couple college-level papers (or math projects, or a music composition) to prove that you can do well in college makes a ton of sense.This is Bard’s core curriculum and it makes sense to test specifically on that.

Clearly, however, the expectations here are off.

Their response to the cheating issue is clearly either bravado or a total lack of preparation for the question. Cheating is rampant in both high school and college; all the way up through grad school. Solid statistics are hard to find, but the fraction of students who have cheated is typically over 50%. Not running the essays through a Google search and TurnItIn isn’t trust, it’s avoiding due diligence.

The amount of work is also substantial. It’s effectively on par with taking an SAT prep course, and it’s also the sort of work for which one can be coached. In fact, it’s the sort of work that you could have someone else edit. (This is quite reasonable – when I wrote 10-page papers in college, you better damn well believe I had someone else edit them!) If you’re from a low-income family that can’t afford SAT prep classes, you also can’t afford the writing tutor and editor that the rich kids can afford. You might not even be able to afford the internet access you would need to bring up the resources that the school is thoughtfully providing.

There’s really no cancellation of background factors going on in this new process. It’s not even designed for that – I’m not honestly sure that it was designed at all. I still like it. I like the fact that it’s available, and I think they’ll get some great applicants, but if it does what they say it’s going to do (that is, level the playing field), I’ll eat my hat. I mean, I should find an edible hat, just in case, but I don’t think I’ll need it.


About Colin Fredericks

By day I help to create online courses at HarvardX. By night I write roleplaying games.

Posted on October 11, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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