From 2005 until early 2016, the SAT had a required essay which was graded by Educational Testing Service (ETS) raters who had to be current teachers of English at the high school or college level. The raters also had to have at least three years of experience teaching English at those levels.
But not anymore.
In January of this year, the College Board made the essay optional, which typically means that only the more highly selective schools will require it for admission. Thus, the quality of essays will likely improve as students who apply to highly selective schools tend to have a better academic history.
So I was surprised to learn that the raters employed by ETS to score the new SAT essays no longer need to have a degree in education or English nor do they have to teach English at any level. That's right--anyone with a degree can now score your essay. That's nearly 40% of working Americans! Do you have a Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts? Let's see what you can cook up for America's youth! A four-year degree in Airplane Mechanics? Fly right on in to Scorer City! Undergraduate degree in Equine Studies? No horsing around—you’re eligible to saddle up with ETS! Apparently anyone with any kind of degree is qualified to judge America’s high school students on their proper use of standard English and their ability to analyze an argument. And you’ll earn a whopping $15 an hour, the same wage that 18-year old entry-level employees will soon be making in New York and California.
Sure, ETS insists that applicants must pass an exam to be hired, but college graduates are well practiced at taking tests. I imagine, too, that ETS will see a high number of applications from tutors, parents, high school counselors, and other adults looking to help students get an egde on admissions. Wouldn't we rather have people who work with developing writers every day be the people in charge of evaluating those writers on the most important test in high school?
I shouldn’t continue to be surprised or disappointed by the degradation of this test, but I am. It just keeps getting worse.
First image: "The Graduates," courtesty of Luftphilia