Friday, April 18, 2014

On vocabulary, and the SATs

In my capacity as know-it-all, I spoke with a reporter yesterday about the new SATs. The ones that are going to focus on students' ability to define higher-frequency words in context. So that old rite of passage, improving one's vocabulary by memorizing "SAT words," will inevitably be abandoned, as test will instead focus on more nuanced interpretations of the words that students will know already.

Evidently, ACT with its "college and career ready" orientation is nipping at SAT's marketshare, and this is part of the attempt to win some of that back. But I don't think making the SAT more vocational in orientation is the answer -- were there students who could define those vocabulary words derided as obscure who weren't able to do the simpler application tasks? The criticisms leveled have to do with students not reflecting college- and career- readiness seem to answer that.

I have these "100 Words" poster some kind vendor gave me in an exhibit hall somewhere on display. To tell the truth, they are covering a gaping hole in the drywall in our "shop-based" library, but they are wildly popular in that at least daily I catch students testing themselves on them. I'm sorry, but I like esoteric words. And if you've seen Bad Words, with its adorable budding lexicographers, you are probably as sad as I am about this shift from knowledge to application.

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