Opinion

Brandt: The old SAT had an equality problem

The new SAT redesign should help lower-income students get into college.

Joe BrandtThe College Board, the nation’s premier standardized testing association, recently decided to implement a complete overhaul of the SAT in light of the ACT’s rise in the standardized testing market.  

The new scholarship program for the Class of 2017, largely believed to be responsible for attracting a record-breaking class of new students according to Temple, is based on a test that has now been declared a relatively inferior predictor of college performance. High school grades were admitted to be a much better predictor.

“We have become far too disconnected from the work of our high schools,” College Board president David Coleman said at an event in Austin, Texas. By “we,” Coleman meant both the SAT and the ACT, which is administered by ACT Inc.

It’s good to sling some mud at your rival when you can.

President’s Scholars, the highest honor among Temple’s new scholarships, receive full tuition, three $4,000 summer research stipends and automatic admission into the honors program. These students were required to have a high school grade point average above 3.75 and a traditional SAT score of above 1,400 or ACT score above 32.

The main problem is this: Students are only allowed a scholarship for which they meet the criteria for grades and test scores. Students that have the GPA needed to be a President’s Scholar but the SAT scores of a Founder’s Scholar will be a Founder’s Scholar.

Without supplement, this complaint is easy to rebut: Standards must be met in order to be ranked accordingly. If you don’t get the score, how can the school be sure you’re worth the money?

But if the standards are admitted to be less accurate than they should be, that’s a problem. Students with great grades could be left out of money necessary to come to school, all because they didn’t standardize test score requirements.

Moreover, this doesn’t even take income inequality into account.

With Temple’s commitment to afforability, it is imperative that the standards for which the future scholarships are administered are open to lower-income students. It’s no secret that the students with the best preparation get the best scores. The problem is that the best preparation is expensive; an online SAT prep course from Kaplan Test Prep costs $300, which is “budget-friendly,” according to a Fox Business article. SAT prep is a profitable industry: Kaplan’s 2012 revenue from test preparation was about $284 million.

College Board’s answer to all this was a partnership with Khan Academy, known for its free educational videos about a variety of topics.

“For too long, there’s been a well-known imbalance between students who could afford test-prep courses and those who couldn’t,” Sal Khan, executive director of Khan Academy, said in an interview with Forbes.

If the students with the best SAT scores are already generally well-off, then it seems silly to give them the highest scholarships while potentially leaving lower-income students out of the big money.

Today’s ninth graders will be the first to take the new SAT. By that time, there should be in place a more flexible set of standards that accounts for the problems with standardized testing. The next few years of students will still be taking today’s inferior and classist test.

It would be nice if the lower-income students got the money they deserved.

Joe Brandt can be reached at joseph.brandt@temple.edu or on Twitter @JBrandt_TU. 

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