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December 28th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

Educating America: Scrap the SAT?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Critics of the SAT say it penalizes minorities because the test itself is stacked against lower income children, who are unable to pay for test preparation programs."]

By Carol Costello and Bob Ruff

What on Earth would motivate six teenagers to spend their summer vacation locked in a tiny, nondescript room with a teacher endlessly going over vocabulary words and math problems that require the use of the Pythagorean Theorem?

(A) Their parents sent them to summer school.
(B) Angst.
(C) They like studying in the summer.
(D) They’re cramming for the SAT exam.

If you answered (B) and (D), you’d be right.

For decades, taking the SAT has stood as the sine qua non for entry into the vast majority of American colleges and universities. Taking the test continues to strike fear into high school students, especially as the date of their SAT exam approaches.

Watch: Bye, Bye SATs Video

The teenagers we visited had this to say:

McKenna Baskett, St. Louis, Missouri: “I’m so nervous! ... I’m a really bad test taker and they’re really hard questions, so I just hope I can get through it.”

Pratick Parija, Jersey City, NJ: “The test is long. ... And you have to complete it and think through, so that’s what scares me a little.”

Jason Huang of New York City was philosophical: “You can’t be nervous for everything. That’s just [a] life lesson. You just got to take it, deal with it.”

McKenna, Pratick, and Jason are just a few of the many high school students taking an SAT preparation course from the Princeton Review, one of several companies offering courses throughout the nation. This one costs a little more than $600. But wealthy students, or at least their parents, are coughing up more than $7,000 for intense private tutoring so that their child can get into the just the right college.

Critics of the SAT say that all this angst is pointless. Fairtest, a nonprofit group that says it supports “fair and open testing,” believes that the SAT is biased and doesn’t do a good job of predicting college success.

What do you think? Scrap the SAT? Send us your comments.


Filed under: Educating America • Education
December 28th, 2009
05:50 AM ET

TSA guidance for passengers following Dec. 25 incident


On Dec. 25, 2009, an individual on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 set off a device and was subdued by passengers and crew. TSA wishes to acknowledge the heroic efforts of those individuals.

As a result of this incident, TSA has worked with airline and law enforcement authorities, as well as federal, state, local, and international partners to put additional security measures in place to ensure aviation security remains strong. Passengers traveling domestically and internationally to U.S. destinations may notice additional screening measures.

The American people should continue their planned holiday travel. TSA encourages passengers to remain observant and aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious behavior or activity to law enforcement officials.

Q: What additional security measures is TSA taking domestically?
A: TSA has a layered approach to security that allows us to surge resources as needed on a daily basis. We have the ability to quickly implement additional screening measures including explosive detection canine teams, law enforcement officers, gate screening, behavior detection and other measures both seen and unseen. Passengers should not expect to see the same thing at every airport.

Q: What additional security measures are being taken for international flights to U.S. destinations?
A: TSA issued a directive for additional security measures to be implemented for last point of departure international flights to the United States. Passengers flying into the United States from abroad can expect to see additional security measures at international airports such as increased gate screening including pat-downs and bag searches. During flight, passengers will be asked to follow flight crew instructions, such as stowing personal items, turning off electronic equipment and remaining seated during certain portions of the flight.

Q: Do passengers need to do anything differently to prepare for checkpoint security procedures? Has anything changed in terms of what passengers can bring in their carry-on or checked bags?
A: At this time, security checkpoint requirements for passengers departing U.S. airports remain the same. Passengers do not need to do anything differently, but they may notice additional security measures at the airport.

Q: Should passengers plan to arrive at airports earlier than normal?
A: Passengers traveling within the United States should give themselves extra time to check in and proceed through the security checkpoint before their flight, especially during the busy holiday travel season. TSA advises that passengers traveling on international flights to U.S. destinations allow extra time for security and arrive an additional hour earlier.

Q. How long will these measures remain in place?
A: TSA will continuously review these measures to ensure the highest levels of security.

Filed under: Airline safety • Terrorism
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