The PAC-10, the SEC, and the SAT

I’m a college football fan who watches every Saturday, and I love it (even though a playoff system is sorely needed). I also admit that I’m a West Coast kid who loves PAC-10 football and who tires of having to hear SEC fans always claim their conference is tops. I live in a time zone where our games frequently begin after the East Coast has gone to sleep, and I live in a region where the teams are spread far apart and must travel great distances unlike the East where teams are bunched. And, I hate to admit it, the SEC has faired very well in the BCS era of football championships.

However, there is an argument I have yet seen an SEC fanatic counter. Each PAC-10 team plays nine conference games while the SEC plays only eight conference games. Why does this matter you ask? Well, let me tell you this: this means the PAC-10 will incur 5 more losses than teams in the SEC. The conference is guaranteed that more teams will end the season with no shot at a national title and most likely will be eliminated from any BCS contention.

This means that a team like Florida (who has done this multiple times recently) will schedule four patsy non-conference games usually at home, play their 8-game conference schedule, and attempt to schedule their toughest 2-3 games at home. This is quite an advantage over the PAC-10 whose non-conference schedules are generally tougher, whose teams play an extra in-conference game against a tough opponent and whose conference will be adding a conference title game soon (which will again guarantee a top-conference team suffering a season-ending loss).

Granted, the SEC has its share of good and very good teams; however, when a team plays more tough games, it is more likely to lose more games. This makes titles more difficult to win.

This relates to the SAT (and AP testing for that matter). I was at a meeting where my high school was critiqued for having the average SAT score dip slightly in the last three years. Apparently, a sign of success at a school is to track the SAT scores of its students–even though the SAT has no correlation to any state standard or state test used–and then compare those scores to classes of years past. In fact, my high school has eliminated the only class designed specifically with SAT success particularly in mind in its quest for all block classes.

To a degree I agree with score comparisons. However, what I pointed out is that we are testing 15% more students than we did 5 years ago, and most of those students are from the poverty and ELL cells in the measurement matrix. If we aren’t only testing our best students, of course the scores will fall. Some may say that I’m making excuses, but I don’t think so. Having a larger, more diverse pool of students taking the SAT is absolutely going to affect the results.

I’ve made the same argument about the AP tests our students take. We have more students taking AP English (my department’s sole AP option), and more of those students have never attempted any sort of honors class previously. We are not seeing as high of a percentage of  students scoring a 5 (the top score), and more students being tested means the average score has dropped slightly. I’m fine with this. (I have also noticed that the AP essay questions have altered slightly and the scoring appears to have changed a bit too, but that’s an entirely different discussion.)

But again, if more students from a broad spectrum of backgrounds are involved in the testing, the results will be different than when it was easier to achieve higher average scores with only the best being tested. We probably need to adjust our expectations if we want to test everyone.

More tough games played results in more losses. More students tested results in more lower scores.

And besides all this, no SEC team wants to play Stanford in the postseason this year.

1 thought on “The PAC-10, the SEC, and the SAT

  1. Jim Van Pelt

    Exactly the same arguments (about A.P. and ACT scores) that I’ve been making in Colorado. We’re involved with a National Math and Science Grant which is specifically designed to draw in more students into the A.P. programs, which is a good thing, but our averages have gone down slightly as a result of trying to get more kids in the program. To the uninformed, which seems to be many, many folks, including our politicians, the media and even a handful of administrators, this dip is a big deal.

    Several years ago, Colorado mandated that all the juniors in the state would take the ACT. You can imagine the moaning that happened when they looked at our first year with the new requirement. Even now, we still see people talking about how much better our students were ten years ago without a mention that ten years ago only our college bound kids took the ACT.


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