SAT I change won't affect Bowdoin
The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is going to have a new face by making significant changes to its format and substance.
According to Jim Miller, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Bowdoin said, "To require the SAT would be a significant step in the culture of this place, and we do not have any plans to do that right now," he said referring to the Bowdoin decision roughly 35 years ago to not require applicants to submit their standardized test scores. He adds, "This is a big change for the SAT and everyone will keep a close eye on it to see how effective it will be."
The specific changes that the College Board is making on "The New SAT," which is coming out in March 2005, include the addition of a "writing section," which consists of multiple-choice questions on sentence and paragraph structure and an essay section.
The essay section is the major new change which "will assess students' ability to write on demand," according to the College Board's website. The choice of writing topics is still being discussed by the Board, but "the assignment will be persuasive in nature and will ask the student to take a position on an issue and support it with reasons and evidence from his or her reading, experience or observation." The other changes are less significant. In addition to the writing section, there will be a critical reading section will more reading passages. As a result, the analogy section will be dropped.
In the math section, the scope of questions will be expanded to cover not only Algebra I and Geometry but also material from Algebra II.
Miller sees the SAT changes made by the College Board as both "pragmatic and principled." He notes that the state of California was threatening not to use the SAT any longer in state university admissions processes because it felt it was no longer measuring college potential. So the writing section was added, in principle, to do a "better job of measuring what you actually did in college," said Miller. Pragmatically, it was to avoid a financial disaster by losing the State of California as an SAT test-taker.
Bowdoin chose not to require applicants to submit SAT scores 35 years ago, acting on the belief that there are more significant ways of measuring a student's collegiate potential through the academic record, rigor of the courses taken, and teacher recommendations among other things.
Alec Schley '06 has concerns that the new SAT changes will shift Bowdoin's admissions focus away from those factors to a numerical depiction of the student. "One of the things I found most appealing about applying to Bowdoin was that it did not require you to submit the SAT scores. Bowdoin looked at the full student and not just a standardized test score."
Miller agrees with Schley's perspective. "The value of the SAT is not measuring aptitude, IQ, or high school performance. The value is to predict how a student will do in college," Dean Miller explained. "Bowdoin is remarkably good at defining intellectual talent rather than simply relying on test scores to do that for us."
In an age of "teaching for the test" in which schools shape their curricula around test taking methods, the changes in the SAT may have significant benefits for high schools trying to prepare their students for higher education. Miller says, "It will be interesting to see how secondary schools will react. If the test can influence the development of writing skills then that is a very positive thing." For now, though, in the mind of the Miller, "the jury is still out" as to whether the new SAT will be effective in gauging college potential. For now, Bowdoin has no plans to change its long-standing admissions policy by requiring applicants to submit their standardized test scores.