Useful tool -- Scholastic Aptitude Test

Leon Botstein's review of a book that argues against the use of standardized tests, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, seems to confuse fiction with fact, July 5, [``New book attacking SATs has right message, wrong tone'']. Scholastic aptitude tests are not designed to improve curricula, train teachers better, or help students to learn how to write and compute.

These tests give only an estimate of the student's potential to be successful in further learning. They are a useful tool, but not the only one, in predicting the odds of future success in higher education.

Colleges use a number of criteria to select students: marks and rank in high school class, teacher recommendations, enthusiasm for learning, extracurricular interests, IQ, as well as the Scholastic Aptitude Test or the American College Testing Program scores.

Mr. Botstein's remedy, returning to ``essay and math problem set tests,'' should be viewed with alarm.

Forty or 50 years ago essay tests were found wanting, because those who scored such tests could not agree on how to score them. One scorer would rate an essay with an A or 95, while another would be sure it was worth only a C or 75.

The whole point in developing multiple-choice tests was to eliminate the natural biases of those scoring essay-type tests. Warren Himmelberger Wellesley Hills, Mass.

E. Richard Churchill's ``A message to parents from a pair of worn-out sneakers'' [July 11] carried a good message that along with their own concerns, parents also need to be aware of their children's. Sometimes, however, particularly when it comes to tennis shoes, even a parent's best efforts don't always bring about the desired and expected result. I smiled when I read the article, recalling just a few months ago when I bought a pair of brand new sneakers for my 14-year-old daughter. She had me well convinced that her feet needed new tennis shoes for a trip to Disneyland. A week or so later, when I glanced at her feet to admire our recent purchase, I hardly recognized the shoes. They were now entirely laceless, because, as she informed me, that was ``the style.'' I noticed, too, that they had acquired a dingy gray cast, purposely achieved to get rid of that clean, fresh, white look, which was ``out.''

I suppose that understanding our children's feelings as well as awareness of their outward needs is the important thing. Thank you for the special message. Paula Caracristi Sacramento, Calif.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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