Standardize this

Yesterday's NYTimes featured an interesting article on the new writing portion of the SAT. According to the article, the correlation between length of the essay and grade was astoundingly high. If that's true, it's most likely a really bad sign for this test's ability to reliably detect writing skill. The only way it wouldn't be a huge problem is if the question is written so that a satisfactory answer couldn't be written in anything but the maximum of words, or right near there. Even then, with grading that strongly correlated to length, the results would be over-inclusive for writing skill, since some people are just lugubrious, while others are actually answering the question.

The subject of the article also seemed quite bothered by incorrect facts not being marked off for, but that's somewhat off base. There are two reasons for not minding inaccurate factual claims. One is that the fact, if it were true, would do a good job of supporting the student's argument. This indicates that the student knows how to properly support a conclusion. Another is if the fact is being used for illustration rather than support, in which case it should really be neutral to the overall grading.

Anyway, read the article, it's good, and standardized testing is an important thing to be thinking about.