The Future of the SAT

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There is a growing argument among college-minded Americans that points towards privilege as the common denominator of a person’s degree of college admissions success. According to them, the advancement of SAT and ACT tutoring services shifts the system to favor families who can afford costly prep classes and tutoring services.

In December, a group of California high school students, along with other advocacy groups, filed suit against the University of California, Berkeley for the use of standardized tests in its admissions decisions. Historically, California has set the precedent for several policies that have reached national recognition, including the adoption of the SAT in college admissions.

The SAT has been used as a measure of students’ potential success since 1926 and fell under scrutiny during the late 1940s as people began to accuse the test of discrimination on the basis of socioeconomic status. During the early 20th century, colleges often had their own personalized admissions tests that seemed to perpetuate the discrimination that, despite many attempts to remedy it, is still seen today. Standardized tests were instituted to create more uniform college admissions that could reach the population at large.

Over the past decades, people have claimed that the SAT illegally discriminates on the basis of race and socioeconomic status. Though more than 1,000 colleges in the US have declared themselves to be test-optional, the University of California would be the first of its kind (being a large and prestigious state school) to expunge the use of these tests in admissions. As the case moves through court, schools across the country are watching closely to see the final verdict. Whatever the decision may be, it will transform the college admissions process.

As many students know, applying to college is intimidating. For those whose SAT or ACT scores may be weak, the process could be especially anxiety-inducing. Families who can’t afford to send their child to tutoring, are at a significant disadvantage in achieving the necessary scores to receive entry into the schools of their choosing. In addition, the divide in public education prolongs the issue even further. In North Carolina, for example, private schools such as North Raleigh Christian Academy, offer classes designed to prepare students for standardized testing. Opportunities such as this are only given to students whose parents have the means to provide them.

The SAT test itself has been subject to a multitude of studies with the objective of uncovering the test’s ability to predict success in college. The CollegeBoard, argues that the test, along with a student’s GPA is the best indicator of a student’s potential. Though proponents against the SAT say that GPA is the most accurate of the two admissions criteria and can be used effectively on its own to evaluate each prospective student. The result of the California case will set the precedent for schools across for years to come.