john katzman – sat

john katzman bw

find/follow him:


John Katzman is an education entrepreneur.

He is the founder of Noodle Education, a search and recommendation engine for schools, tutors, instructional videos, coaches, and any other education resource. Prior to that, he founded 2U, which partners with the University of Southern California, Georgetown University, UNC-Chapel Hill and other universities to deliver degree programs online. He served as its CEO until January 2012.

Katzman is best known as the founder of The Princeton Review. A graduate of Princeton University, Katzman founded The Princeton Review in 1981, initially teaching SAT preparation to high-school students in New York City. Despite being the founder of a successful business based on preparing for a wide range of standardized tests (including the SAT, ACT, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, and MCAT), Katzman is an outspoken critic of the modern preoccupation with standardized testing, and has argued that many tests are no better indicator of achievement in the relevant fields than grades and scores on other tests (such as theAdvanced Placement exams) that students already complete. He is often invited to speak on topics related to education and the measurement of academic achievement.

Katzman has been involved in the founding of several other education companies, including and Student Advantage; he is an angel investor in several education technology ventures, and serves on the Boards or Advisory Boards of others.

Bill Mei Even the founder of Princeton Review thinks that the SAT is a scam..


And there are lots of tests that are more useful than the SAT that are also common.


Well, for instance, the Advanced Placement Tests. They are rigorous. They’re difficult. There are lots of them. You can say, my interest is history. And so I’m going to take a history Advanced Placement test. And I’m going to get–I want kids to be rigorous. I want curricula to be rigor to be rigorous. But I want them to be not one size fits all and not mindless. Like, let’s have kids studying hard but let’s have them studying something useful, hard.

yeah – same song – different verse, english accent, little bit worse – check with many – but perhaps Eric Mazur about AP.

But it’s really true–some people can’t take tests, because they don’t speak that language.

The tricks we teach are common sense to a good test taker. It’s what you do. We’re just saying, this is what kids who do well on tests do. They might not know they’re doing it. But they’re doing it.

Does it really just boil down to test taking strategies?

A kid’s coming in to get higher scores. All right? We’re not there to teach Shakespeare because the test doesn’t measure Shakespeare. We’re not there to teach trigonometry because it’s not on the SAT. We’re there to teach you to score better on this exam because this exam is going to determine where you go to college and how much financial aid you get. It’s also going to determine how you feel about yourself in some large measure. You still remember your SAT scores. And everybody else does too. Everybody’s forgotten everything about themselves, everything else about high school. They remember their SAT scores.


Second–I have a big problem with these laws. These are politicians getting involved in decisions that they have no business being involved in. Being an admissions officer is like being a casting director. It’s about choosing a class that’s going to work well together. You want men and women. You want blacks and whites. You want a diverse class. You want people who are great athletes to be on your teams. People who are great journalists to be on your papers. And people who are great actors to be in your acting department. You’re building a team. To say to them, look, all you can do is use this score, this measure of performance–that’s all that’s important–is making their job into a joke. These are very serious professionals. And you’re saying, look you can be replaced by–hell, not a computer–like a calculator. Right? Just punch it in and, and you get a number. And I think that’s ridiculous.

curiosity app producing a trail – like the brain – as alternate means. friendly to admissions officers, humane to humans.

Your competitor says the test is flawed but it’s the best we have and we should keep it. Do you think we should keep it?

We should get rid of the SAT as fast as we can. Look, there are bigger problems in society. This is not the biggest problem we have. But it’s so easy to get rid of it. Right? Just pull the plug.

spot on.

And a lot of kids who get that wrong–it’s not because they don’t speak English. And it’s not because they won’t do well in college. Our experience is, a kid who doesn’t do well on the SAT–it’s not because he gets the toughest questions wrong. It’s because they make lots of careless mistakes on easy questions. They get sucked into trap answers a lot. Because they don’t have their footing. They don’t understand the question. It’s not that they can’t do it.

So a lot of the course isn’t focusing on the toughest questions. It’s focusing on making sure you don’t get that question wrong.

Why develop a question like that if it’s only measuring a test-taking technique?

Because the point of writing an SAT question is not measuring what you learn in high school or how well you’ll do in college. It’s separating out kids. There are kids who will get that right. And they’re generally the kids who have been in math courses where they play with this kind of stuff. Which is to say, upper income. And there are kids who will get it wrong because they don’t play with this stuff.

So the question is very good at separating kids. And that’s why they have it here.

You say it doesn’t measure intelligence. What does it measure?

The SAT is said to predict freshman year grades in college, a little. And it does. It measures it a little. Almost anything you do, including family income, will measure freshman year grades a little. But the point is that it doesn’t measure intelligence. It doesn’t measure anything that’s worth a 100 million dollars a year prepping for it.

But the man who started ETS, started it with a noble purpose.

Yes. To prove that white northern Europeans were smarter than everybody else. That was his men were smarter than everybody else. That was his goal.

Every problem starts out as a solution to a problem. And the SAT is no exception. The world before the SAT–it was kids from Andover and Exeter got into these top colleges. And the rest of us didn’t.This was a leveling. But it was a leveling among upper middle class white men. Because that was the population who took it. And as the rest of society started taking it, the SAT became more and more irrelevant. And the tragedy about the SAT is not its invention. It’s as the world changed, the SAT didn’t.

You look even ten years ago–before the Internet, you know, before any number of things–the SAT looks exactly the same. You look 50 years ago and the SAT is still the same. This test is a dinosaur. 

They’re saying that the early bird gets the worm. If it’s a coachable test, then let’s start coaching yearsahead.

I got to tell you–we strongly discourage students from working with us before the end of sophomore year. Like strongly. If you call up the Princeton Review office and say, I’m a freshman and I want to start working for the SAT. We will turn you away, because we think that you shouldn’t spend your entire high school life thinking about the SAT. That there is a limit to the neurosis that even we can tolerate.

But the problem with these tests–and the state exams as well as the SAT–is that as you ratchet up the stakes, this becomes more and more important. Can you really blame people for taking it very seriously? And you can’t look at the people who are spending a ridiculous amount of money and time obsessing about the SAT. You have to look to the test and say, why are setting the stakes like this? Why are making a test of something that has nothing to do with high school? 

“Underlying the SAT is an equation of lies: Intelligence can be defined and measured, race is a biological-scientific, not social, construct, some people are better and deserve better, some lives are not worthy of life.”—Rich Gibson


fitting notes from Sir Ken Robinson‘s the Element:
p. 7 Never underestimate the vital importance of finding early in life the work that for you is play.
p. 12 on the ed system:
1) preoccupation w/certain sorts of academic ability
2) hierarchy of subjects
3) growing reliance on particular types of assessment
p. 14 – the value of dance – the Gillian Lynne story
p. 22 – the Element has 2 main features: aptitude (i get it)  and passion (i love it)
                                  and 2 main conditions: attitude (i want it)  and opportunity (where is it)
p. 31 – there are the 5 senses, the 6th sense – intuition, and a basic sense -balance
p. 35 – too many people take for granted our ideas about intelligence, ie: athletes, dancers, musicians, etc…. draw from the deep reserves of feeling and intuition and of physical reflex and coordination that use the whole brain and not only the parts at the front that we associate with rational thinking.
p. 38 – Alfred Binet, one of the creators of the IQ test, intended the test to serve precisely the opposite function. identify students w/special needs so they could get appropriate forms of schooling. Binet says: the scale he created does not permit the measure of intelligence, because intellectual qualities are not superposable, and therefore cannot be measured as linear surfaces are measured.
p. 41 – Carl Brigham, inventor of the SAT… disowned it 5 yrs later, .. the SAT is in many ways the indicator for what is wrong with standardized tests: it only measures a certain kind of intelligence…..via John Katzman, founder of the Princeton Review, “what makes the SAT bad is that it has nothing to do with what kids learn in high school. as a result, it creates a sort of shadow curriculum that furthers the goals of neither educators nor students…”
p. 42 – wrong question.. how intelligent are you…. right question… how are you intelligent.

standardized seat time – seems all we can measure..

From the 1876 report to the US education commissioner. “there is no absolute standard of quality”

Original Tweet: