by Tiffany Sanchez (’21)
It’s that time of the year juniors. Yes, time to be forced to split up the little time we have in our day, not just between our academics and extracurriculars, but also with college preparation. It is fair to say that we are all at different places when it comes to how much we have studied or been tutored for the SAT. Some of us may have started as early as summer, some may have barely begun, and others might have not even touched an SAT book. No matter our situation, have we ever stopped and wondered why? Why do we have to take this test? Why do we have to give up so much time for it? Why have we given it so much importance?
It seems like getting into a “good” college has been the focus of our lives for who knows how long – that is all we know and all we are taught to want. Our laser-focus on college is not necessarily a bad thing, but that end-goal has blinded many of us to the downsides and imperfections of the college process, especially when it comes to the SAT. We merely take the test because it is necessary to reach that end-goal, so we do not often question or try to challenge it because God forbid we do not end up going to the college of our dreams, just as we had always planned. But when we stop to think about it, isn’t the SAT just a measure of how good of a test-taker you are and how rich and privileged you are?
If you have been tutored for the SAT, think back to your sessions. You are not being taught any new material, at best you are reviewing material you have forgotten. The only new things you are learning are the skills required to not be tricked by the SAT: how to read/interpret the questions, how to eliminate answers, how to answer as fast and efficiently as possible, and so on. What about this truly captures what the student knows or how intelligent they are? All this test can display about a student is how well they can perform under pressure and how much they have been tutored. Any student can get a high score on the SAT if they take the time to study not what’s on the test, but how the test has been designed.
Not only is the SAT a very inconvenient way to demonstrate the performance of a student, but it is also a deep flaw in our educational system that has encouraged and left the door wide open to continued exclusion of racial minorities and low income people. The option of getting tutored is not a luxury that is available for everyone, which sets up certain students for more success than others. Our success is a combination of both our efforts and opportunities, and the resources we were provided with to make the most out of both. For colleges to judge a student’s achievements on the SAT is unfair and inaccurate given that not everyone has had the same privileges; all it does is disproportionately exclude marginalized groups. Those who support the SAT argue that in order to achieve equality, a singular metric that can evaluate everyone in the same way must be used, but this cannot equitably measure the performance of students when it is a reality they have had access to different opportunities in their lives. Even if the SAT in some way accurately measures a student’s performance, which seems highly unlikely, the process would continue to be unfair since it would be doing it on the basis of all the resources that specifically helps privileged student’s reach a certain level of success prior to the test.
Just because the SAT may appear to be the easiest and most efficient way of evaluating, simply accepting it ensures we keep the status quo of inequality, it can no longer be an excuse to support a flawed system. We are doing a disservice to all those who are marginalized and robbing future generations of their potential, and possible opportunities and success. It is tragic we are turning away so many students and discouraging them from continuing onto a higher education simply because the skin of their color, their socioeconomic class, their gender, etc has prevented them from having opportunities that are needed to better prepare for their future. Although marginalized students face more of the SAT’s repercussions, all students of all different backgrounds face the inaccuracy and unneeded stress of the SAT, and therefore it lies on all of us, especially educators, to figure out a different method, and fast.