Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Taking the SAT? Learn the power of BS
This is just great. The new SAT essay tests would seem to reward only one thing: length.
How to prepare for such an essay? "I would advise writing as long as possible," said Dr. Perelman, "and include lots of facts, even if they're made up." This, of course, is not what he teaches his M.I.T. students. "It's exactly what we don't want to teach our kids," he said.

SAT graders are told to read an essay just once and spend two to three minutes per essay, and Dr. Perelman is now adept at rapid-fire SAT grading. This reporter held up a sample essay far enough away so it could not be read, and he was still able to guess the correct grade by its bulk and shape. "That's a 4," he said. "It looks like a 4."
I can understand overlooking some factual errors in assessing writing ability; that makes a certain kind of sense. And, in their defense, they claim they haven't released the shorter high-grade essays to the public. But, why wouldn't they? Aren't teachers intended to use such samples to direct their students?

I would prefer 2 writing elements. One would have a word limit, not just a time limit, that would encourage and reward taking time to self-edit. The other would be an editing assignment. Give them a poorly-written paragraph, with subject-verb problems and punctuation issues, maybe even a spelling mistake, plus some badly-worded phrases. Ask them to fix it. Why reward rambling (and even error-rich rambling!) when we most want them to master interesting, coherent and concise? I would settle for developing even one of those skills myself, but we should have higher standards for the kids today, right? They're gonna write the crap we all have to read in the future.

Kenny T - you out there? Tell me where this story is right or wrong.

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