I generallly enjoy reading Gary Rubenstein, an ex-TFAer who has developed a healthy skepticism for the eduformer group. His flaws include a purist attitude about math (common among mathematicians, as opposed to people who teach math) and a reverence for Diane Ravitch.
But he raised my ire when, in the midst of a rant about desperate schools paying “expert” consultants for turnarounds that will never happen, he mentions a school’s low SAT scores:
Bronx International High School in New York had a lot of attrition and very low test scores. As far as academic rigor, their average SAT score was 1010. This was a bad score when it was out of 1600, but now that it is out of 2400, this is absolutely horrific. You get 750 for just writing your name on the test!
See, that’s just irritating. First, the low score is 600 for three sections, not 750. (Low score per section is 200).
But the real annoyance is his invocation of the idiotic trope of “getting points for signing your name” on the SAT.
“You get 120 points on the LSAT just for writing your name!” or “You get a 1 on the AP test if you turn in a blank test!”, or “You get a point on the ACT just for writing your name!” You never hear those much, yet they’re all equally true.
Newsflash, people: few if any standardized tests give a zero score. Everyone gets the lowest score just for turning in the test. Mocking the SAT for giving 200 points just for showing up either shows a real ignorance of the other tests or a lamentable desire to follow the herd.
In fact, the 200 score reflects a range of scores from -16 or so (marking every single question on the reading section incorrectly, a near impossibility) to a 0 (leaving the test blank, or getting a 1:4 ratio of right to wrong answers).
But that’s just obsessive geekishness and besides, it’s not the scoring, it’s the criticism that mildly annoys me. First, the SAT and its competitor, the ACT are the most egalitarian standardized tests in the nation. Really. I’m not saying they’re perfect, but these tests are the fairest, cheapest, most achievable option for low income students who want to improve their chances for college admission and placement. These tests find the diamonds in the rough, but also help the steady plodders. If you don’t understand this, then you’re an ideologue with an agenda or you’ve been snowed by one.
If you wish to criticize a test’s scoring system, pick on the Advanced Placement test, Jay Mathew’s beauty queen, star of the Challenge Index. AP tests have a skimpy five point scoring system, with no way to distinguish between the many, many blank tests turned in by students forced to take the test so their schools will qualify for Jay’s contest and a genuinely weak effort that simply failed. They are all scored as a 1—the most common score received by a good number of schools on Jay’s Index.
The AP is a good test, but its owner, the College Board, is too busy raking in the money from the Challenge Index bonanza to risk turning off the faucet by revealing how many profoundly unprepared students are taking it so their schools can qualify for a place on a meaningless list.
Oh, and Gary’s actual point? He’s right. The turnaround industry is a disgrace.