College Board Unclear On What Its Own Test Measures

University Testing

Not surprisingly, President Richard Atkinson’s recent recommendation that the University of California eliminate the SAT I requirement for applicants ruffled the feathers of the College Board, the organization that sponsors the SAT series.


Concerned about this newest attack, the College Board spoke out in favor of its beloved cash cow. In a statement released the day the UC proposal went public, College Board President Gaston Caperton defended the SAT I as a valuable barometer of educational quality: “It is true that some students do not perform as well as other groups on standardized tests, including the SAT…The SAT scores reflect unfairness in our educational system.”


The College Board’s reaction to the UC proposal flies in the face of its frequently touted claim that the biggest benefit to using the SAT I is that it has no relation to K-12 curriculum or schooling. For example, the College Board website states that “The test [SAT I] is designed to allow you to demonstrate your abilities in these areas regardless of the particular type of instruction you’ve received or textbooks you’ve used.” According to this defense of the test, a student’s SAT score measures “aptitude” or “ability” irrespective of the quality of the education system. Confused by its own rhetoric, the College Board can’t seem to decide if SAT scores are independent of curriculum and schooling or a reliable indicator of the quality of public education.


Such contradictions are par for the course at the College Board, which for many years struggled with the name for the SAT. Originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, then renamed the Scholastic Assessment Tests, the exam is now officially referred to by just the three letters. One thing that is clear in Caperton’s statement is the vested interest the College Board has in promoting the SAT: annual revenues for the exam and related materials total more than $125 million.