Features — December 05, 2014 by Emma Register
SAT Testing: An Uneven Playing Field

The SAT is arguably one of the most dreadful aspects of high school. Most would think that the strong aversion to this standardized test is because of the time and energy expended on it, but the reality is more complicated.  SAT prep instructors usually begin the first session with the shocking declaration that the SAT is not a test of knowledge, but rather a test of your ability to master the strategies. Senior Monica Halaka recalls that she opted to apply mostly to test-optional schools because she preferred to attend a university that cared more about the breadth of knowledge she has gained thus far during her time at Pacifica. The most aggravating thing about the test is that in order to master these strategies each student would have to hire a private SAT tutor which is unfeasible for most students, due to cost and time limitations.

Many would think that with a plethora of college tuitions hovering around $55,000 a year that the process to get into college wouldn’t be so draining on a parent’s income. It’s difficult to comprehend that the process to get into college focuses more on the “parent’s ability to pay for an expensive tutor” to ensure their child reaches a 1900 or 2000 on the SAT than a student’s achievements and performance in high school (Redwood Bark). This concept runs parallel with the idea that the SAT creates an unequal playing field among the wealthy and poor.

The only people who are in the position to drop $100 to $200 each session on a good SAT tutor are the affluent. Bob Shaeffer, director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, attests to this and recalls that “there is still a strong, direct relationship between family income and test scores” (US News). Even with upcoming changes in 2016 (optional essay, new score reports, and score scale), the SAT will still hold the imbalance between low-income and affluent families. High schoolers find the imbalance of the SAT test extremely discouraging as they approach the college application process, adding to other doubts looming in their head and fears that they will not get the large envelope with  “Congratulations!” written on it  but rather the small flimsy envelope.

The inequity of the SAT doesn’t just affect the poor but there is also a strong debate on how race plays a key part in standardized testing results. Many educators, students, and families have claimed that these standardized tests are in direct violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act since, in the 21st century, colleges put an emphasis on a test that allows other racial groups advancement over others. The College Board released the SAT scores average of 2012 based on races and the results are unsettling, with white students averaging a score of 1578 and minorities like African Americans averaging at a 1273, and Mexican Americans averaging at a 1365. Relying so heavily on a test like the SAT that is skewed to provide success to one small slice of American high schoolers for a college acceptance is wrong, but there is hope that the rise in popularity amongst colleges of truly test-optional college applications will help alleviate this imbalance.

Time Magazine acknowledges that with the rising awareness of “the inherent racial and economic inequity” of the SAT, many schools like NYU, Middlebury, and Pitzer “have stopped the require[ment] of the SAT for admission” (Time). As time passes and more schools join in the test-optional movement, more high-schoolers will have the opportunity for fairness in college acceptances.

The Pacifica community has tried to ensure their students have the best success when taking the SAT. This is most apparent in the SAT style math tests in Mr. Bennedetto’s class, the in-class SAT essay practice with Mrs. Kelsey, and the strenuous vocabulary test and homework Pacificans have had built into their curriculum since freshman year.  Add to this the inexpensive proctored Revolution Prep exams, and you can see that with Pacifica’s help many students will have a head start in the college testing process!

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Emma Register

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