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Originally published Friday, March 7, 2014 at 5:13 PM

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Editorial: SAT reforms welcome, but questions persist about test

Recently announced changes in the SAT are laudable, but questions about the fairness and accuracy of any standardized test won’t go away.

Seattle Times Editorial

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Best predictor of college success? GPA and high school attendance record. Not perfect... MORE
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From the Seattle Times: D. All of the above. The correct answer, of course, is... MORE


MULTIPLE choice: The College Board announced badly needed changes in the SAT this week because of —

A. Complaints from college-bound students, parents and teachers that the anxiety-inducing standardized test bears little connection to what’s actually learned in high school;

B. Research that suggests the SAT favors students from affluent families that can afford tutors and test-preparation courses;

C. Growing concern among colleges that the SAT is a poor predictor of future academic success and instead demonstrates only how well students can game the test; or

D. All of the above.

The correct answer, of course, is D, and the College Board’s overhaul of the SAT is a step in the right direction.

Test-takers no longer will be required to define arcane vocabulary words. Students will be asked not just to answer questions, but to identify evidence supporting their answers. The practice of deducting points for wrong answers will end. A required essay that seemed to reward all the wrong things will be modified and become optional.

Perhaps most important, quality test-preparation materials will be made available to low-income students for free.

But the SAT reforms don’t resolve questions about whether any standardized test can fairly or accurately measure knowledge and potential.

Some Washington universities have stepped away from the SAT and its competitor, the ACT. Washington State University, Central Washington University and Eastern Washington University automatically admit applicants with grade-point averages or class rankings above certain thresholds, regardless of their test scores.

Private Whitworth University in Spokane allows admission candidates with a GPA above 3.0 to opt for a rigorous interview rather than submitting SAT or ACT scores. About one-quarter do that, Vice President Greg Orwig says, and their admissions rate and performance in the college classroom are no different from that of other students.

Whitworth’s experience suggests even an improved SAT deserves less emphasis than it now gets — not just from college-admissions officers, but also from a society that tends to judge educational institutions by how well their students perform in aggregate on this inevitably imperfect exam.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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