The “From the Desk Of” series is my regular email to the Valley Torah High School community.
Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” I began to write this post moments before administering the CollegeBoard’s PSAT’s to our students last week and immediately this quote came to mind. What would Einstein have thought about this test and the other standardized tests our students prepare for and take to get into college? Likely, he would not be a fan and would question the value, as I do.
Now before all my students go home and tell their parent’s Dr. Jones said they do not have to take the SAT’s, ACT’s, etc…., let me point out the value I do see.
First, the SAT’s and the like are required by most colleges and universities. So, for better or worse, it is necessary. Two, it does have some predictive value in indicated academic success in college as illustrated in a recent study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Finally, the CollegeBoard, like I, have finally been questioning the SAT’s relevancy. This change of heart is likely due to the recent popularity of The ACT over the SAT, which is more aligned with what a student is supposed to have learned in high school. Regardless of the reason, the CollegeBoard has committed itself to redesign the test in a manner that has more practical value.
The CollegeBoard claims that “when students open their SAT test books in spring 2016, they’ll encounter an SAT that is more focused and useful than ever before.” While I am not sure “focused” is what I would rally behind, “useful” is certainly noteworthy. How so? Well, they claim the new SAT’s will be more relevant. The vocabulary section will no longer be complete with words only your English teacher knows and plans to use words generally used in college and throughout their lives. Goodbye “propinquity” and hello “empirical” and “synthesis.” YEY! The math section will be focused on areas that “contribute to readiness for college and career training” and questions in the reading and writing sections will be designed in a manner students are likely to encounter in college and the workplace. Sounds good? We shall see, but the more the test connects to real life the better. For a complete list of the changes click here. However, the SAT is still a standardized test and, while there is clearly value, it can never be the full measure of any one student.
Now you can’t blame the universities for using a standardized test for admissions. It is time consuming and costly to get to know every applicant in a true holistic manner. Applications, GPA’s, SAT’s and personal statements streamline the process. If every university interviewed every applicant and in a fashion that helped them understand each applicant it would be cost prohibitive and tuition would just skyrocket. However, some universities have realized that there are many ways to measure an applicant and SAT’s are only one. The most notable and respectable in recent news is Temple University who announced their “Temple Option” which is a new admissions path that is SAT optional.
According to Temple’s site, “the Temple Option is a new admissions path for talented students whose potential for academic success is not accurately captured by standardized test scores. Students who choose the Temple Option will submit self-reflective, short-answers to a few specially designed, open-ended questions instead of their SAT or ACT scores.” This is fantastic! It illustrates a desire to find the best and brightest, which is not always made apparent from a standardized application process. Furthermore, “Temple supports the holistic evaluation of our freshman candidates, and we appreciate the many ways they can demonstrate their academic strengths and potential to succeed in college.” I certainly hope more universities take note.
So what is my point? Should my student take the SAT’s? Of course! Study hard. Take our prep course. Get a tutor. Do well in school. Take as many co-curriculars as you can and stand out! However, know this. You are so much more than a test score. Never let the score, high or low, define you. Know what you stand for, your goals and purpose. Live your life with that in mind. Know what makes you who you are. Academic success is something to be proud of and I hope that you all find that success. I also hope that being successful in school is part of who you are or want to be. Just know, as your General Studies Principal, I am here, as is Rabbi Stulberger, Rabbi Felt and our teachers and rebbeim, to help you reach your fullest potential while with us, and your test scores are only one aspect of that.