Education is a universal experience in that everyone will undergo at least a rudimentary level of learning. The problem is, college, and the doors a degree open, are not. To get into a top tier school, students must complete either the SAT or ACT. Even some scholarships are oriented around how well a student performs on these tests. In theory, these tests are means for industrious students to get a head, but in reality there’s subtle prejudices against those from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as those who are not made aware of their options.
The SAT Reasoning Test costs $50, whereas the SAT Subject Tests cost $23 as a base price, with additional expenses added depending on which type of test you take (either $12 extra or $23 extra). While these fees are not prohibitive, they do not take into account fees associated (rush ordering, reapplying, etc.), nor does it take into account test prep. Test prep can range from $100-$5000 depending on the program. Additionally, those in private schools are often better coached and offered more opportunities for success than their public school counter-parts. This also feeds into the number of students who participate in advanced courses – it is more socially accepted and supported to take these courses in private schools, and the costs of these tests are easier to absorb in a private school.
The Viability of the Tests
Many school budgets are contingent on high performance rate on standardized tests. Federal and state grants tend to only be allotted to schools that show a high degree of college/career readiness. The problem with this is schools are incentivized to teach towards the tests as opposed to imparting practical skills and knowledge to their students. Additionally, once these tests are over, they bare no semblance to any other form of achievement or evaluation save for other types of standardized tests. This means we are teaching our youth how to give us the answer they think we want as opposed to critically analyzing information and producing a logical opinion on why their answer is correct. What’s worse is the graduates this type of testing produces do not know how to be creative or innovative.
What would true equality look like?
If we know standardized testing is not the answer to make education and the opportunities for success an equal exchange – what should our system look like? This is tough to answer because quality of education is a very subjective study. One key element that must be “brought back” is the recommendation system. Currently, recommendations are only a small piece of whether students are accepted, yet the world of commerce lives and breathes because of endorsements, testimonials, and user-feedback. It seems a logical step to add a little more weight to the teacher/mentor recommendation. We may also want to look at the perceptions we create for certain fields and areas of study. There’s a lot of undue skepticism around many high-paying fields of work simply because they aren’t “conventional” office jobs.
What was your ACT/SAT experience?