In a piece in this past Sunday's Washington Post, Robert Sternberg, provost and senior vice president of Oklahoma State University and the author of College Admissions for the 21st Century, argues that the SATs do a poor job of predicting student success, and advocates a different test that aims to assess creativity and practical skills.
Over the course of my years in the Yale admissions office, I found myself continually surprised by how many of the students we accepted had sky-high SAT scores but seemed to lack basic practical and creative skills, whereas others with more modest scores were stunning successes at Yale, both academically and personally.
Many students who appear to have tremendous potential at age 17, based on their SAT scores and GPAs, don't look so wonderful 20 years later.Here it's unclear not only where Sternberg's impression comes from, but what his criteria for "looking wonderful" are.
An executive at a major investment bank told me awhile ago, looking back on his 25 years on Wall Street, that he had found that SAT scores predicted quite well who would be good analysts at his bank - that is, they predicted the technical skills needed to evaluate investments. What they did not signal, he said, is who would be able to take the next step, who would have the capacity to envision where various markets are going, to see larger trends and to make decisions that go beyond individual stock or bond picks.
assess and value analytical, creative and practical skills and wisdom, not just the ability to memorize or do well on tests.
We should admit people on the basis of their potential for leadership and active citizenship - people who will make a positive, meaningful and enduring difference to the world.
"Use one of the following topics to create a short story: a. The Spam Filter, b. Seventeen Minutes Ago, c. Two by Two, d. Facebook, e. Now There's the Rub, f. No Whip Half-Caf Latte, g. The Eleventh Commandment."
Other [questions] might ask students to draw something, such as a design for a new product; to post a video on YouTube; or to imagine an alternate history (what if the Nazis had won World War II?). An analytical question, meanwhile, might ask a student what his favorite book is and why. A practical question might ask a student how he convinced a friend of an idea. And a wisdom-oriented question might ask him how a high school passion might be turned toward the common good later in life.Here we see the all-too-familiar, right-brain notions of creativity as visual, practical skills as social, and wisdom as outward-focused and applied.
Sternberg and his tests have appeared earlier on this blog, and he makes the same claims about this test as he does about the Rainbow Project Aurora test he has devised for determining who should be admitted to gifted programs:
After controlling for high school grades and SATs, Tufts's new admissions questions, like those posed by the Rainbow Project before them, improved prediction of college grades. They also helped forecast which students would shine as active citizens and leaders on campus, and they virtually eliminated the admissions edge enjoyed by some ethnic groups.