31 October 2015

Why is the Atlantic publishing false information about the SAT?

From Emmanuel Felton’s Atlantic article, “How the New SAT is Taking Cues from Common Core:

While other standardized tests have also been criticized for rewarding the students who’ve mastered the idiosyncrasies of the test over those who have the best command of the underlying substance, the SAT—with its arcane analogy questions and somewhat counterintuitive scoring practices—often received special scorn.

And this:

On the reading side, gone are analogies like “equanimity is to harried” as “moderation is to dissolute…Eliminating “SAT words” isn’t the only change to the new reading and writing section, which will require a lot more reading…The passages themselves are changing, as The College Board tries to have them represent a range of topics from across the disciplines of social studies, science, and history. 

Emmanuel Felton is entitled to his own opinion about the SAT; he is not entitled to his own facts.

The SAT eliminated analogy questions in 2005 — that was 10 full years ago, in case you didn’t care to do the math. Yet his article very directly implies that these questions are still part of the exam.

Felton also does not acknowledge that the SAT already includes passages drawn from fiction, social science, science, and history, on every single test. The fact that the passages are not explicitly labeled as such, as they are on the ACT, does not mean that they are drawn randomly.

These are exceedingly basic facts, which presumably could have been checked with five seconds of internet research and a quick glance through the Official Guide.

Does the Atlantic not employ fact-checkers? Or does it simply not care about facts?

Furthermore, the small print at the bottom of Felton’s article indicates that it was written “in collaboration with the Hechinger Report.” On its website, The Hechinger Report  describes itself as  “… an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based at Teachers CollegeColumbia University. We on support from foundations and individual donors to carry out our work.” (Unsurprisingly, the Gates Foundation is listed among those donors.)

Why on earth is a publication produced by an Ivy League university allowing this type of blatant misinformation to be disseminated?

If you are going to take potshots at the SAT in a major national magazine, fine; people have been doing that for decades. At the very least, though, those criticisms should be anchored in some sort of reality.

Even by the very questionable standards of general reporting about the new SAT, this is sloppy, lazy work.

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