Friday, September 11, 2009

Topic: SAT Writing Sample

10-second review: Want a good grade on the SAT writing sample? Here’s how.

Title: “SAT Essay Test Rewards Length and Ignores Errors.” New York Times (May 4, 2005), Internet.

Summary: Dr. Les Perelman, MIT, was able to show that the longer the writing sample, the higher the grade. In addition, if the students are blatantly wrong in their use of facts (“Columbus discovered America in1842”), the students are not penalized.

Dr. Perelman was able to estimate accurately the score of a writing sample even though he saw it at a distance, without ever reading it, by observing just its length. “If you just graded them based on length without ever reading them, you’d be right over 90% of the time.”

Comment: Even the makers of the SAT seem to agree that the 25-minute writing sample is not very important or valid. The objective section that tests grammar and style is worth 75%. The writing sample is worth 25%.

The NCTE criticizes English teachers for emphasizing the five-paragraph essay. Teachers spend hours teaching to the 25-minute SAT essay, in which students produce the minimum five paragraphs. It’s all they have time for. And that becomes the writing program. Criticize the test, not the five-paragraph essay which is simply a model for organizing expository writing with appropriate development. Criticize the test for not allowing time for brainstorming and revising and editing and the time needed to develop the topic. Blame teachers and administrators for teaching to the test and not teaching writing. RayS.

No comments: