How the SAT and the
of Affirmative Action Threaten Campus Diversity by
Pot, It's Not How One Immigrant School is Dealing
Mary Kate Frank
photos by Brian Rock
Tale of Two Schools
Chasm in Education Just 16 Miles Part
Sarah Dillon '01
Between Two Worlds
Minorities Reflect on Prep School Experience
by Melanie Shortman '02
Project 1000 Promotes Grad Diversity
by Vanessa Theiss '02
From The Start
The History of the SAT
The SAT was born in the 1920s-the
product of a growing desire by American educators, led by Harvard
president James Bryant Conant, to open up their universities to
the best students across the country.
SAT's inventor wrote, "American intelligence is declining,
and will proceed...as the racial admixture becomes more and
America's elite universities-Eastern
establishments such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton-selected students
who were the sons of previous graduates or had attended New England's
finest boarding schools. Conant envisioned a "natural aristocracy,"
taking the place of the old elite.
Lemann writes of Conant's ideas,
"The new elite's essential quality, the factor that would make
its power deserved where the old elite's had been merely inherited,
would be brains."
Conant asked young Harvard dean
Henry Chauncey to create a program that would allow Harvard to
select the brightest students from across the country.
Chauncey soon met Princeton psychologist
Carl Brigham, whom Lemann calls "an ardent eugenicist." Brigham
concluded in his 1922 book, A Study of American Intelligence,
that "American intelligence is declining, and will proceed with
an accelerating rate as the racial admixture becomes more and
Conant and Chauncey discovered
that Brigham had already created a test to judge the academic
potential of students, the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT. Brigham's
earliest version of the SAT, similar to IQ tests he had previously
developed for the Army, contains questions remarkably similar
Lemann writes, "A few samples
from the original version convey the SAT's inimitable way of being
simple and confusing at the same time, its tendency to induce
uncontrollable, anxious second-guessing on the part of the taker."
Brigham had begun administering
the SAT to test groups in 1926, and had concluded by 1933, when
he met Chauncey, that his SAT reliably predicted academic success.
Conant and Chauncey seized upon this conclusion, began administering
the test to students who wished to win scholarships at Harvard,
and convinced many of their Ivy League colleagues to follow suit.
Soon after Carl Brigham developed
the test which Conant and Chauncey used, he began to question
the wisdom of using the SAT to admit college students. In an unpublished
manuscript which Lemann unearthed, Brigham wrote that the standardized
testing movement was based on "one of the most glorious fallacies
in the history of science, namely that the tests measured native
intelligence purely and simply without regard to training or schooling.
The test scores very definitely are a composite including schooling,
family background, familiarity with English and everything else."
Lemann writes that Brigham's growing
opposition to the early SAT prevented the test from gaining immediate
acceptance, which was extremely irritating for Conant and Chauncey.
However, "On January 24, 1943, at the age of fifty-two, he died.
The roadblock was removed."
Chauncey became the first president
of the Educational Testing Service in 1946, and under his skillful
leadership, the SAT grew rapidly-by the 1950s, nearly 400 schools
were requiring the test for admittance.
Today, 2.1 million American teenagers
take the SAT, according to the ETS. The exam has 138 questions,
all multiple choice except for several math graphs, divided into
two sections-math and verbal, both scored on a scale of 200 to
to lead SAT article: Whiter and Wealthier