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‘SAT Success Is Now for Sale’

* Re “Dropping the SATs Is an Excuse to Drop Standards,” Commentary, Feb. 25: I must disagree with Virginia Postrel when she views the SATs as a necessary, albeit imperfect, measuring stick of knowledge. Perhaps Postrel is from my own generation, when this was more the case. However, things have changed dramatically in the past 10 to 15 years.

Some SAT preparation courses, which are widely used by college-bound children in upper-middle-class communities, now guarantee a score increase of 100-150 points on a scale of 1600. With the proliferation of these businesses, SAT success is now for sale, making the SAT a standardized measure of wealth, not of knowledge.

JOY HAMMERBECK

Laguna Niguel

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* I am delighted that we are discussing the problems with the SAT. Not only are children of some races or ethnicities at a disadvantage, but also those who have difficulties with speed tests. My son could never have gotten into any of the colleges that required that test, because he was a slow test taker. I believe that his score on the one SAT he did try was just over 900. He, therefore, attended Valley College, where he was on the dean’s list several times, and then transferred to UC Berkeley in his third year. He had the opportunity to receive an excellent education and graduated from that institution several years ago.

MARGARET J. SCHULZ

Sherman Oaks

* Re Halford Fairchild’s Feb. 26 commentary: I suspect that the lack of SAT success of many people, blacks and Hispanics but also whites as well, points to a serious lack of books, reading skills and interest. However, as Fairchild points out, the SAT is no predictor of success; I’ve known people with little reading interest who have been very successful in life. On the other hand, reading skills and analytical ability don’t guarantee motivation and effort, nor do they protect one from more serious problems of health, character and circumstance.

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Nevertheless, reading skills are important, not just for individual success, but also for a well-rounded and informed citizenry, and it might be more profitable to try to understand why some poor black and Hispanic students do well on the SAT than to eliminate the test altogether.

STEPHEN E. PAZAN

Encinitas


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