Thursday, October 26, 2017

David Coleman's He-Man Woman-Haters Test

Turns out the bold new SAT test has some bold new problems, specifically when it comes to getting results for female students. David Coleman's SAT rebuild may still have a few bugs in it.

Mercedes Schneider wrote about this yesterday, but it's a story that deserves to be amplified and spread far and wide, because the implications for young women trying to get into college are troubling.

This new report comes from Art Sawyer, a test prep guru who founded and operates Compass Education Group, the leader in one-on-one test prep.

You can look at this post which is basically a research summary, light on the commentary and heavy on the wonkery. Or you can start with this post which spends less time shuffling data and more time drawing conclusions in order to ask big questions.

Sifting through the data reveals that two changes have affected the male-female ratio of high scorers. The change back to the classic 1600 scale (in place of the decade's 2400), as well as the change in how writing is scored in the test have both reduced the percentage of female top scorers. Menahiwle, fiddling with the math has actually increased female top-scoring-- but not enough to offset the other effects.

Bottom line: female students have a harder time hitting the highest band of scores on the new SAT. High performing females are now, suddenly, at an SAT disadvantage.

There are many implications for that result, not the least of which is that colleges and universities that use a hard (or hard-ish) SAT cut score may be unintentionally tilting their new freshman classes toward the testosterone side. And if they base any grant decisions on SAT scores, then women will be getting the short end of the aid stick as well.

What exactly accounts for this shift in score results. Sawyer theorizes that the handling of the writing portion (females used to outpace males on the old written section) may account for it, but he also theorizes that the SAT folks were sloppy in their test redesign, and he has some significant scolds for them, a list of actions that the College Board folks ought to take:

College Board should state the policy it took on subgroup score differences in designing the new SAT.

Sawyer says the SAT folks used to have a policy that no redesign could be allowed to make any subgroup scoring gaps widen. They either ignored or violated that policy here.

College Board should share the data it had both before, during, and after the creation of the new SAT.

College Board should explain why it stopped publishing key information.

You haven't heard about any of this because the College Board has been deliberately not talking about it. Sawyer says they should end their silence.

The further disadvantaging of female students was a foreseeable consequence of the new SAT’s change in structure and scoring.

The College Board can't pretend that they didn't know this was happening, or that such shifts weren't going to happen. Unless, and this is my thought and not Sawyer's, they were so very sloppy that they did not adequately pre-test the test, and so they didn't know.

The difference in observed results for male and female testers must not be accepted as an inevitable result of standardized testing. It is not.

Sawyer repeatedly underlines the point that this score gap is a result of test design issues, and not something that, you know, just happens when you give boys and girls a standardized test.

The SAT and PSAT are increasingly government funded, and decisions regarding them are a matter of public policy.

Ooooh! Interesting point. As SAT fees are increasingly paid for by states (because the College Board has successfully mis-marketed the SAT as a high school exit exam), this is increasingly a government-funded business, which means that they get to enjoy some government-initiated meddling. Well, maybe not under this administration, but still-- this is a matter of policy and not just private business matters.

The mission creep of the SAT and PSAT has extended the import of score result differences into new terrain.

For example, the PSAT is now used as a marketing tool for AP courses (Your PSAT scores come with a "Here's the AP course you should enroll in" blurb.) The PSAT tells if a student "has potential" for AP coursework. Do women now have less potential for AP success?

And finally, Sawyer unleashes this scorcher--

Compass’ own research on this topic should be unnecessary, because it is properly the College Board’s responsibility.

In other words, do your damn job, College Board.

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