Class Writing

Les Perelman, director of the Writing Across the Curriculum program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, thinks the writing test is so bad that he coaches students on how to write abysmal essays, while including words that the College Board likes (“plethora” is key) and to end up with great scores. (The story of one of his successful efforts is here.)

Perelman said that it’s absolutely no surprise that students who do well on the SAT writing test do well in college. The College Board favors the traditional “five paragraph essay” format taught to high school freshmen, and those who are going to succeed in college have generally mastered the format and picked up the various tricks that earn good scores on the essay. (One of Perelman’s students, to show how the scoring favors quotations from famous people, accurate or not, took the test using various quotes that happened to be visible in the testing room, and attributed all of them to Lee Iacocca — and she earned great scores.)

“The writing test is teaching students a lot of bad habits,” said Perelman. “It’s real predictive value, in terms of writing, is nil.”

Scott Jaschik, The New SAT: Longer, but No Better?

It’s hard to believe that the standardized test still exists, especially for college entrance exams. They are rooted in eugenicists’ attempts to prove racial superiority and have long been implicated in a kind of racial and class profiling. Even the testers themselves have given up the game, admitting that high school grades are better at predicting college grades.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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