SAT Officials Hope to Score High in Eliminating Racial Bias


(Stock Photo)
(Stock Photo)

Administrators of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) have announced with great fanfare that they overhauling the standardized tool that helps determine whether an applicant will get accepted into the college of his or her choice. But in revamping the test, SAT officials are facing a test of their own.

“The redesign is trying to get a sense of what students learned in high school…and trying to help students demonstrate their critical thinking skills instead of just picking an answer. And that’s all well and good,” said Michelle Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a college-access policy think tank. “But the real question is, are all students getting the same opportunity to learn those skills before they get to college? Students, especially low-income Black students, often go to schools that are under-resourced. Will they have ever been exposed to the type of questions to be asked on this test, or will it all just reinforce the bias we already see?”

In part because of what some perceive as racial and cultural bias – along with poor schools – many Blacks don’t do well on the standardized test.

Last year, only 15.6 percent of African American students who took the SAT reached or exceeded College Board’s ‘SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark’ score of 1550 (out of 2400 possible points). According to College Board, the nonprofit education giant that created and develops the exam, this score is associated with a 65 percent chance of earning a college freshman year GPA of a B- or higher. This figure was up from 14.8 percent in 2012.

Averaged scores for individual sections of the SAT were lowest among African American test takers, hovering around 430 (out of 800) per section. The average scores for their White and Asian American counterparts were in the mid- to upper-500s. Everyone else’s scores – Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, “Other” Latinos, and students identifying as “other”—averaged about 450 and above.

Although the test’s intended use is to assess college readiness, researchers, educators, and policy makers allege that it has had a hand in creating the access disparities it now intends to fight.

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Source: | Jazelle Hunt

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