I cannot help but wonder where American citizens, especially teachers in public education, have gotten the idea that the SAT should be a deciding factor in college admission decisions. I see the news articles that compare school districts, states, and countries according to SAT scores, and I wonder just what these articles think the scores mean!
The poorest predictor of a student’s ability to be successful as a college student or in life is a standardized test score. These scores totally lack the ability to show a student’s creativity, resourcefulness, desire, and determination to reach the goal of obtaining a degree and/or becoming a contributing member of society. So what does the test score tell us? It tells us only that a student has mastered certain basic skills that have been taught in the K-12 public education system. They do not show any individual contributions the student has made in the classroom or community setting. They fail to show how a student reasons. They cannot even begin to fathom a student’s desire to succeed in life or elucidate a student’s life plan for reaching goals. The information they do provide is so limited, it amazes me that they are used as a basis for determining a person’s potential worth as a member of a college community.
I have read the articles that indicate the United States is falling far behind other countries in its ability to educate its citizens to take a positive and productive role in a global economy. Where does this idea come from? How can we possibly claim to compare the average of test scores by all the students in the US that take the SAT to the top 25% of students in other countries? The United States public education system is based on the principle that we need an educated citizenry to take part in the governing process of our country. Other countries see no such purpose for education, and they choose to educate only the top “performers” in the academic arena. It’s like comparing the statistics of an NBA team against the statistics of a pick-up game on the playground-the best in the business versus the average guy on the street.
Would someone please tell me why a nation that prides itself on providing education to its citizens so that they can contribute to a global and local society wants to compare itself to nations that educate only the smartest of its citizens? Have we completely lost the perspective of what a free and public education system is supposed to accomplish? Would the founder of such a system, Thomas Jefferson, find value in comparing all of America’s children to the brightest children of other countries a compelling and valuable endeavor? Would this idea even begin to fit into his purposes for educating the people of America?
Then why are we using a false predictor to determine who “deserves” to further their education in this free country? The SAT fails miserably as a predictor of which students from any country will become thoughtful, caring, constructive citizens who make meaningful contributions to their communities anywhere in the world. The SAT does not weed out potential psychopaths or even the self-serving who will never contribute to a better world. The ONLY thing the SAT shows us is how much basic knowledge a student has gleaned. It cannot even tell us how well that student will use his or her knowledge, how creative they may be, or whether or not a student will be an asset to a college community (much less a global one).
It is time America refocused its efforts on the true purpose of a free and public educational system. Education in America is for the masses that they may be free to choose how and by whom their country is governed. Public education in America is not for the purpose of comparing everyone in our country to the best and brightest of other countries in the world (which is exactly what happens when we compare SAT scores). If we want to make those comparisons, the public education system needs to be discarded in favor of a system whereby we compare our best and brightest to the best brightest of other countries. Until then, all we are doing is comparing apples and oranges.