Art by Ellis Rougeou
A nationwide sigh of relief was heard in January, when the College Board announced they are discontinuing SAT Subject tests and in June will discontinue the optional SAT Essay. When asked why, the College Board said, “We’re reducing the demand on students. Subject Tests are no longer necessary to show what they know.” Though they made no mention of COVID-19 being a deciding factor, it’s likely that the added stress of the pandemic on students had some effect on their thinking. But that “demand” and added stress they claim to be reducing still weigh heavily on us.
After asking many Upper School girls about their feelings toward College Board, the resounding, gut-reaction answer is “College Board is dumb.” Sophie Younker (10), who has just entered into the gates of College Board hell, said, “It’s dumb. It just stresses everyone out.” Yet the College Board About Us page lays out one goal: “helping millions of students navigate the transition from high school to college.” They may have a different definition of “help.”
Sure, college is difficult and we need some idea of what to expect by taking college-level AP classes, but standardized tests are a completely different story. In AP classes, we learn throughout the year, studying the lessons with time and aid from our teachers. But with standardized tests, we’re expected to have thorough knowledge of everything we’ve learned over high school while also having keen time management skills. “It's set up in a way that if you have the money to do test prep, you’re gonna do better on the test,” said Kate Kiameh (12). Unless you’re a straight-A’s genius who doesn’t have to try, in order to do well, you most likely have to get tutoring, which requires, as Ms. Bielskis ('89) said, “Money, money, money, money.”
Another issue is whether the tests are representative of intelligence at all. These tests have become an important factor in the college admissions process. “It’s just a way for them to put a number on you and filter you out so that anyone under a certain score is not eligible,” said Maeve Karnes (11). And even though more schools are becoming test optional, an application that includes a good test score will probably be chosen over the identical one without.
In conversation with Upper School Head Lauren Rogers, Rogers admitted that she is still taking standardized tests. “I’m confident that more than half of St. Mary’s students will go on to graduate school. I’m on my third graduate degree, and I had to take a standardized test for every one of them,” Rogers said. The College Board seems to follow us wherever we go, so maybe it is time we see it as something less than demonic.
Rogers said, “Students are looking for [a college] where they belong, and they don’t realize that colleges are doing the exact same thing.” It is true that colleges choose students who they want to succeed, seeing test scores as representative of how great a workload they can take on. But we must recognize that some scores are not a good representation of who that student is. As Rogers pointed out, “Students are not just numbers, they’re people.”
For & By Students
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