Op-Ed: New test scores show students lost a lot of ground in the pandemic. Overreacting won’t help.
On Monday, the New York Times published an op-ed from a former Trump administration official, Michael Kratsios, who said he had to correct himself after the Times had erroneously reported that the Trump Administration had stopped using the SOB test during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This should not be so difficult.
The “SOB” test is a nationally standardized test of reading, writing, and mathematics developed in the 1950s by the Educational Testing Service, which also administered it to all U.S. students in grades 3 through 8, as well as to students in other countries. The test was intended to help students learn to read and write after school with or without the presence of a teacher, and was meant to be administered in schools so that students could be compared directly to one another and those who didn’t have a teacher could be compared with those who did.
As the Times’s editorial board explained,
The test was intended as a kind of end-of-grade test, and its purpose remains the same today: to determine whether students are ready for secondary school, or to provide a snapshot of their readiness to enter college or a graduate program.
But it’s also used in many more contexts than that. Teachers and parents can use it to assess whether a child is fit to begin kindergarten, or to determine whether a student needs extra help in math. Companies can use the test to evaluate their staff or to screen job applicants. And some state assessments use the SOB test for other purposes, including to measure a student’s readiness for college. In addition, the test has been used by some schools for social purposes, too, such as to determine whether to allow students to participate in activities that do not require all of the resources available at the school.
While the test was originally designed to evaluate school readiness, it also has been used in a number of ways to assess a wide range of other types of education and learning that aren’t school readiness:
• To measure college readiness. The SOB test has been widely used by colleges and universities, for many different purposes.