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Issues of Effectiveness and Equity in the Coaching Controversy: Implications for Educational and Testing Practice SAT

Messick, Samuel J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Coaching, Equal Education, Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), Testing Problems


Multiple sources of controversy over coaching for Scholastic Aptitude Tests are addressed. These include disputes over the meaning of scholastic aptitude, over the meaning of coaching, over the nature of the fundamental research questions, over the adequacy of the empirical evidence for coaching effectiveness, over the possible implications of effective coaching for student performance and for test validity, and over the consequent ethical imperatives for educational and testing practice. Three possible outcomes of coaching having different implications for college performance are discussed—genuine improvements in the abilities measured by the test resulting in commensurate increases in test scores; enhanced test taking sophistication (item familiarization, guessing, pacing) resulting in increased test scores that are more accurate assessments of ability; and, heightened test taking artifice (stratagems and answer-selection tricks) resulting in increased test scores that are inaccurately high assessments of ability. The first two if realized would be beneficial from the standpoint of both test validity and student performance, while the third is only incidental with professionally made tests. A framework for gauging the practical utility of coaching effects is pr esented and several ostensible yardsticks of coaching impact are discounted as largely irrelevant. ((67pp.)

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