SI Grad Weighs in on New SAT
Brenna Smith '15
The SAT has always been a source of contention for high school students. Recently, David Coleman, College Board of CEO announced a remodeling of the 2016 SAT. The new test will be based more in classroom learning: no more obscure vocabulary words, required essays, or inconsequential math techniques.
The redesign raises questions: Why do the SATs exist? Does the SAT do more harm than good? Will the new SAT bridge the gap between rich and poor? SI graduate Mr. Randolf Arguelles, director of San Francisco’s Elite Academy and author of “The New SAT Will Widen the Education Gap” in the Wall Street Journal, addresses the injustice of the test.
BS: Mr. Arguelles, can you explain how the education gap between the rich and the poor will widen with the new SAT?
RA: The current SAT is puzzle-solving model, not a measure of learning, so it gives a smart kid from a “crappy school” a chance of getting into a better college. The test measures abstract reasoning, not the quality of teaching. The new version will penalize a smart kid from a weak school be- cause poor teaching will impact his or her results. Bad education will finally get in the way.
BS: SI students are privileged and can afford test prep classes. Should we feel guilty?
RA: No, no. Your parents just want the best for their kids. Parents and students should not feel guilty for test preparation. True, the higher the income, the better the SAT score. That needs to be addressed. That was my concern in my op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal: this income gap will be exacerbated by the new SAT.
BS: Why even have the SAT, or standardized tests, in general?
RA: In a perfect world we wouldn’t need the SAT. Students would be evaluated in a more nuanced way. But it isn’t a perfect world. I also read for UC Berkeley. If Berkeley were to implement an essay entrance exam as some private col- leges with several thousand fewer applications, it would extend the reading season to four or six months, not the current two months. This would cost more money and would increase application fees. The SAT is a helpful metric for evaluating college students. It’s not ideal, but is a necessary data point.
BS: Does the SAT do more harm than good? RA: In a professional career, there will be some task that may seem completely pointless, yet difficult to achieve. But you will still have to do it to get to the next step in your career. The SAT is perhaps the first pointless, difficult task one has to overcome. We should all be so lucky that everything we do is fascinating or has a clear identifiable purpose, but that just doesn’t happen. The SAT is life preparation. Since the test is one large puzzle-solving exercise, test prep teaches people how to do the SAT puzzles. That being said, the SAT is not a measure of your intelligence or worthiness to go to a certain college. BS: Any last minute advice for students gearing up to take the SAT?
RA: College admissions is not about justice. Perfectly qualified students are turned down by Harvard and Princeton and the UCs. Unqualified students get in because they are athletes, legacies, and contribute other talents. The system is not meant to be just but to build the best freshman class they can.
There has been a significant shift in college ad- missions where you can be a specialist in one area. Previously colleges wanted the well-rounded student (grades, sports, orchestra, community service, etc.). Now colleges do not recruit well-rounded individuals: they recruit a well-rounded freshman class by bringing in people with specialties.
The best favor you could do for yourself is be- come an avid reader. Read veraciously with a dictionary. Studies show that successful college students read all the time. More than income, reading correlates with both the math and read- ing scores. Another thing to keep in mind: You should nourish the mind, soul, and body. It’s a life-long task.
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