The Sunday Washington Post featured an article about grading the SAT essays. After being strictly a multiple choice test for so many years, the SAT is now adding an essay.
I don't think adding an essay makes any sense. This doesn't mean I don't think writing is important. I just don't think there's a practical way to accurately judge a person's writing ability based on only a single essay.
The wonderful thing about the SAT is how accurately it measures a person's ability. So many people retake the SAT only to get a new score extremely close to their last score. Maybe it went up by a few tens of points if they prepped really hard for the retest. But that's about it.
Why can't colleges judge applicants' writing ability by looking at their grades in high school English classes? Don't high school grades mean anything? The SAT is supposed to add to high school grades by creating a score that's standardized across all high schools. It's not supposed to replace your entire high school record.
I suspect that unlike the multiple choice sections of the SAT, the essay section will be strongly influenced by test preparation. Students with rich parents will take the expensive test prep courses and learn the proper way to write for the SAT essay.
And what about this statement that the Washington Post managed to slip in:
Bremen, an English professor at the University of Texas at Austin, notes that the writer provides only one real example. Nevertheless, he says, the writer displays "a clear chain of thought" and should be rewarded, "despite his Republican tendencies."
That should raise people's alarm bells! Of course, proper test preparation will teach students to never write anything political, but the English professor was commenting on an essay about squirrels hording food supplies; I don't understand how in the world it could be construed as "Republican."
Somehow, the change to the SAT seems like change for the sake of political correctness. Liberals hate the SAT because it demonstrates quantitatively that people differ in intelligence, and they also hate it because the average black score is significantly lower than the average white score; the difference [possibly] exceeds a standard deviation. (I took statistics in college, I knew it would be useful someday!) [See comments for additional statistics.]