I try not to put up two posts by the same writer in the same day, but this one followed naturally from the one that precedes it.
Peter Greene reminds us that the SAT is not just a testing company; it is big business. Right now, the SAT is in hot competition for market share with ACT.
When the company brought in Gasper Caperton to help solve some cash flow issues, he announced that he didn’t want to run just “a testing company.” Caperton boosted fees, increased market by (among other things) getting states to punch PSAT tickets for students, and selling student information to colleges. Revenue reports for the non-profit College Board run from “$500 million to $1 billion” The College Board’s Form 990 from 2013 shows total revenue of $840,672,990 with a whopping $98,894,865 left over after expenses.
The College Board is a non-profit, which means it doesn’t have to share any of that $100 million profit with shareholders or owners. When Caperton left, he was making more than the head of Harvard, more than the head of the American Red Cross. Nineteen other executives were making over $300K. David Coleman, in his first full year of head honchoship after being hired mid-2012, received a full $734,192 in compensation.
Meanwhile, the SAT is battling for market share with ACT. Part of that battle has involved a technique familiar to manufacturers of soft drinks and beer– create a larger line of products to suck up space in the store and build market loyalty among customers. To that end, the College Board has rolled out a full range of products, allowing students to start taking some version of the SAT as early as eighth grade.
Think of it. When your state, say, Connecticut or Colorado, makes a deal to test every student with an SAT product, you are aiding the corporation improve its bottom line. This has nothing to do with improving the education of your child. The state has decided to trust the standardized test more than its teachers and is willing to transfer millions of dollars to the corporation that might have gone to hire teachers of the arts or to reduce class size. The same goes for the ACT. You don’t get college-ready by taking tests more often or earlier. You get college-ready by reading more, writing more, and pursuing your interests more deeply.
Your child is neither a product, as Exxon chief Rex Tillerson believes, nor a consumer. He or she is a developing human being. Standardized tests give you standardized information that may be useful in limited settings. But no standardized test can measure his or her worth or potential or gifts. You cannot measure what you treasure.*
*I use that line from time to time because Peter Cunningham, who was Arne Duncan’s Assistant Secretary for Communications and now runs “Education Post,” once said to me in defense of testing that “you measure what you treasure.” I thought about it and decided that it was the other way around. What I treasure cannot be measured. Here is a trivial example: I adore my dog Mitzi and my cat Dandy. How can I measure my love for them? I love my children and my spouse. What scale should I weigh them on? How can I measure my love for them? The Data Gods speak, but they don’t speak for me.