National IssuesOpinion

It’s time for Idaho to leave the SATs in the past

Photo courtesy Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu.

Most Idaho high school graduates will remember taking the SATs even multiple times in their schooling. Up until the fall 2020 semester, all Idaho high school seniors were required to take the SAT. 

I remember extreme stress, confusion and anxiety. I’ve never been the best test-taker, finding myself easily distracted and suddenly forgetful when facing a sheet of questions. The idea of a test that practically determined my eligibility for college was not exciting. Actually, it was horrifying. 

Not to mention that none of my high school math classes truly prepared me for the math section of the test. I had one week (two class periods) dedicated to SAT prep, the week before the test. When I sat down in front of the math portion of the SAT, everything appeared entirely foreign to me.

I hadn’t been shown the necessary equations and proper problem-solving techniques to get through the test well, so how was I supposed to do well at all? 

Finally, I remember leaving the testing-room feeling inadequate and dumb, and the thought of retaking the SATs for the chance of a better score certainly wasn’t helping. Sitting through all of that again? No, thanks.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I felt for the high schoolers about to go into SAT season; I could imagine that remote learning didn’t help the gap I found in my education and preparation. To my surprise, the Idaho State Board of Education waived the SAT requirement in fall of 2020, then again both semesters of 2021. 

Boise State has since altered its admission requirements, removing the SAT scores altogether. Sherri Ybarra, state superintendent of public instruction, told KIVI that the State Board of Education is considering removing the requirements at the state level as well, potentially making the test optional for students who still want to receive a score and send it off to their top colleges. 

In other states, however, the cancellation of the SATs has not been as easy. According to a Forbes investigation, some students or their parents reported that they were notified about their SATs being canceled only 12 hours before it was set to begin

This same investigation led to me discovering the corrupt history — and the corrupt present — of the College Board, the nonprofit organization that administers the SATs and PSATs every year.

The College Board accumulates more than $1 billion annually in revenue along with $100 million in untaxed surplus from operating the tests. According to IdahoEDNews, the state pays an annual $1 million to offer the SATs to students. Sounds to me like the College Board could cover the costs of testing for every state without harming its financial standing. Many other states don’t buy the tests for its students, leaving many students and their families having to shell out $50-65 on the SAT, putting low-income students at an extreme disadvantage.

The criticisms against the SATs are not new. People have long been calling into question the biases of the test and the possible harm it perpetuates, as Black students and other students of color tend to participate less and score lower on the SATs compared to white students. In fact, the first SAT was created in 1926 by a racist psychologist who believed Black people were intellectually inferior. While that psychologist is no longer creating these tests, that bias and prejudice was built into the organization from day one.  

Other worrisome discoveries include privileged chief executive David Coleman taking a $2 million paycheck and the College Board selling student data (i.e., ethnicity, religion, gender) to colleges and “other third parties.”

I can’t say I’m surprised that an organization that creates and profits off of college entrance exams is corrupt — I surely believed they were when I sat down in a squeaky wooden desk in 2019 to take the dreaded SAT myself. I remember being told that the SATs were an indicator on how ready a student was for college. 

Apparently, this is not the case. Forbes found that standardized test scores, including the SATs and ACTs, are “worse predictors” of a student’s potential success, compared to GPA, something that is already measuring a student’s perceived success in school.

So basically, the College Board is selling us on the idea that the SATs will positively affect one’s academic experience, but this does not seem to be the case. It’s good to see that Idaho is considering dropping the statewide graduation requirement, and I believe it’s pertinent for the success of young students.

Photo courtesy Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu.
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