Everything right and wrong with the SAT

Two opposing perspectives on the controversial standardized test.
Everything right and wrong with the SAT
Credit: Skylar Zajac
The SAT is an impractical test that burdens students and teachers

dumb piece of poopoo this man is a foolWaking up to go to school at 7 a.m. to take a marathon of a test that can decide how your dream college evaluates you is nothing short of a miserable experience. 

“Standardized testing is a terrible system and it doesn’t show your actual skill on the test, it just shows how much you can prep for the exam, like any other test,” said senior Odessa Clemente, who took the test last year. 

Every April, high school students are expected to sit down and fill in a Scantron sheet for three hours and 15 minutes or in this year’s case, a digital version. As most high schools require taking the test your junior year, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) may contain content that hasn’t even been taught yet. In my experience, I had just started Algebra 2B a week before the test and received questions on subjects that I didn’t learn until the end of the school year. For students in similar situations, seeing these questions on a test that is said to be so important can be very stressful. 

The importance of the SAT, however, has steadily decreased over the years.

As of the end of 2023, 80 percent of colleges and universities didn’t require the SAT or the ACT at all for application requirements, according to Mary Churchill’s article, The SAT and ACT Are Less Important Than You Might Think.

Since so few colleges actually require these standardized test scores, the requirement of this test in this day and age is especially nonsensical. 

Amber Dance’s article, Has the Pandemic Put an end to the SAT and ACT? reports that after 2020’s scheduled SAT was canceled because of COVID, most colleges and universities decided not to take the test into account because the students that still took their scheduled SAT during the pandemic would have an unfair advantage in comparison to the students who weren’t able to take it.

Despite its lack of a practical purpose, some argue that it’s still important for students to take this standardized test. Loy Norrix French teacher Rachel Larner, who proctored the test for two consecutive years, thinks that the SAT provides a learning experience for the students. 

“I do think it’s a good experience for students to have to go through something unpleasant like that because no matter what field you go through, you have to sit through unpleasant situations all the time and just have to be professional about it,” said Larner. 

Norrix art teacher Gregory Stevens thinks the SAT is useful to a degree but shouldn’t be used as the sole method of judging a student’s capabilities.

“I’m not so sure it [the SAT] should be given such high importance compared to other things, as we should be focusing on getting a better picture of the whole individual,” said Stevens. 

We should be focusing on getting a better picture of the whole individual.”

— Gregory Stevens

Stevens also brings up an additional drawback of the SAT: how much time it takes to administer. 

At Loy Norrix specifically, when it comes time to take the test, it takes two weeks to administer and completely halts the flow of the trimester. During these two weeks, students are in and out of virtual classes, and teachers have to rework their lesson plans to accommodate technology-based learning. Additionally, the school had to put classrooms aside for testing and reschedule the bells to ensure there aren’t any interruptions. 

“All in all, it puts a lot of pressure on the students and disrupts the learning environment,” said Stevens. “If it were gone tomorrow, I wouldn’t shed a tear.”

When we were finally dismissed from the SAT last year, I did find myself with a sense of accomplishment, and I was happy with my score for the effort I put in. When I began to apply for colleges this past fall of my senior year, however, all I had was resentment for the test as no college I wanted to go to or applied for required it. 

For example, Duke University no longer requires any standardized testing scores, and the University of Michigan has implemented a test-optional policy.

The SAT, however, shouldn’t be completely thrown away by schools. Because some highly esteemed colleges still require a score or at least take the SAT into account, the SAT should still be available to students who want the opportunity to prove to themselves  that they can put out a good score 

Since the College Board has accumulated over 1.5 billion dollars from their standardized tests,  according to Follow The Money, it shouldn’t be a problem to still give students the test.. If students opt-in to the test, it should be treated in the same manner that the SAT is done today: quiet and controlled testing environments to ensure those students have a fair shot to achieve the best score they can.

Despite changes, the SAT remains an important tool for college-bound students

Aidan ZajacThe Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is understandably a hard sell for many high school juniors. It’s a high-stress, low stimulation experience that many students find counterproductive and unnecessary.

However, not only will local policy continue to maintain its mandate in Kalamazoo high schools, but students looking to attend college may find that taking the SAT could provide more opportunities than expected.

First, it is important to note that the SAT is most likely here to stay at Loy Norrix, whether students like it or not. Thanks to Section 1111 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and its 2015 amendment, schools across the country are required to take annual “academic assessments” of their students, and College Board’s series of tests under the SAT name are a convenient pre-made option for high schools in particular.

Additionally, not only is the SAT an easy option for Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) to fulfill their standardized testing requirement, but having this test as the mandated assessment for juniors allows all students to take it and succeed, which can be especially important for those planning to attend college.

In a time when more colleges than ever are waiving their test score requirement from their application, some students may ask whether the SAT is worth the effort. However, not being required to submit test scores does not mean that test scores will not be considered, and a good score only strengthens an application. 

A question worth asking, however, is if a good score is truly accessible to everyone willing to work for it. Time and time again, data has shown that lower-income students, especially those of visible minority groups, perform worse on the SAT than middle and upper-class white students.

These statistics are alarming, but is the SAT itself to blame for this problem?

According to Abigail Johnson Hess at CNBC, it’s not. In her article Rich students get better SAT scores—here’s why, she affirms through research that wealthier students, on average, do indeed score better on standardized tests. 

However, this correlation has little to do with the SAT itself, or the inherent cost of taking it. Wealthier students tend to go to better-funded schools which offer a greater variety of academic support, and the benefits of these factors influence most other academic outcomes in addition to test scores.

Removing the SAT will not solve the income gap in high school performance and college enrollment. With this understanding, it is reasonable to ask what an economically disadvantaged student at Loy Norrix can do to boost their score.

As it turns out, there are a few things. KPS has the resources to provide each of its high school students with a Chromebook and library card, which each go a long way in providing SAT study resources for everyone. 

For starters, the Chromebook allows for access to Khan Academy and countless other free online resources. Sample test questions and lessons about the subjects covered by the test can be found in large quantities, and spending some time every week working through these greatly increases one’s ability to perform well on the test.

The Kalamazoo Public Library also offers multiple SAT prep books in their teen services departments, which any KPS high schooler is free to check out, or even study from right in the library.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for tracking academic performance, the SAT does genuinely seem to somewhat predict one’s success in college, according to a study from Opportunity Insights at Harvard University

A good score on the SAT also shows more than an ability to remember material. It shows a willingness to work hard and learn hard, and even if a student’s score is less than that of what a wealthy, privileged person would achieve, that score combined with the context of their income bracket presents a strong case to colleges of a prospective student who is determined to learn, overcome and persevere.

So, no matter who you are, consider giving a good shot on the SAT when it comes around for you. It may very well prove to be much more of an advantage than you might think.

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