Can the SAT be Fixed?

Timothy+Snodgrass+giving+a+thumbs-down+for+the+SAT.

Timothy Snodgrass giving a thumbs-down for the SAT.

Beatrice Grantham, Journalist

College Board is an inevitable part of the high school experience for students planning to attend a college or university. The near-constant barrage of tests, test fees, and test preparation courses are a facet of daily life for high school students. The little acorn logo looms large in the subconscious of every prospective college student. But the history of College Board and the tests administered by the corporation are marred by racism, classism, and eugenics. 

One of the major players in the development of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Advanced Placement (AP) tests was psychologist Carl Brigham, a prominent supporter of the eugenics movement. Brigham wrote a book entitled A Study of American Intelligence (1923) wherein he describes how testing proves the superior culture and intelligence of “the Nordic race group.” Brigham was also a vocal opponent of race-mixing, especially in school settings. The first SAT was administered in 1926, meaning that College Board has had almost a century to address the racist foundation of their tests (“The Racist Beginnings of Standardized Testing,” John Rosales and Tim Waler, NEA.org). 

However, SAT scores continue to show racial bias as recently as 2019, even after College Board “redesigned” the test to be more objective. According to The National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest.org), the highest-scoring racial demographic in 2019 (the most recent data available) were Asian American and Pacific Islander students with an average score of 1223. The lowest-scoring demographic was indigenous students with an average score of 912. Caucasian students had an average score of 1114, mixed-race students had an average score of 1095, Hispanic, Latino, or Latin American students had an average score of 978, and African American students had an average score of 933. Furthermore, students who waived the testing fee had an average score of 987, whereas students who paid the fees had an average score of 1079. If the SAT was truly as objective, as College Board claims it to be, there would not be such blatant racial and class disparities in the scores. Carl Brigham created his standardized tests to prove racist pseudoscientific beliefs, and his hatred determines the future of millions of students nearly 100 years later. There is no way for College Board to truly shed the racist history of their tests without completely dismantling their testing methodology and starting over. A house built on a cracked foundation can never be structurally sound. 

AP English teacher at OHS, Timothy Snodgrass, similarly feels that the SAT is an inherently faulty assessment of students’ scholastic aptitude, and that no matter what the College Board does, they can’t avoid that “what the SAT is really measuring isn’t scholastic aptitude, it is one’s ability to test prep.” There is no evidence that standardized tests, like the SAT, improve student performance in school. Snodgrass predicts that moving forward, more and more colleges will begin to go test-optional or test blind. But, the College Board is, at its core, a business that needs to turn a profit, and will likely be a continuing presence in schools. Snodgrass believes that schooling has become “a matter of checking boxes” and no longer prioritizes teaching that learning is “ongoing, and organic, and it never stops.” When learning is seen as a matter of tasks to fulfill, and there is a rigid idea of what it means to be a good student, “we may be losing sight of the forest through the trees.” From what he has seen, Snodgrass gets the sense that students see College Board and the SAT as sort of a necessary evil in schools- most students don’t like it, but there’s little that can be done about its presence.