The SAT demonstrates college preparedness… yeah, right

I’ve proctored the SAT for about 13 years. While I’m not sure, I ‘d say that I’ve done it between 40 and 50 times. Just in case you were wondering, the test is nothing more than a money grubbing joke.

There are actually two parts of the test that I love. First, after the first break, students are forced to write in cursive a statement which is a proclamation that they won’t cheat and won’t talk about the test until the scores are received. Um, yeah, right. Show me a kid in the United States who isn’t talking about the test – and specific questions – on the walk out of the school, and I’ll sell you a bridge. And I’m not blaming the kids here. In addition, it’s beyond rare to see students in 2010 who still use cursive handwriting. They ask me how to make a cursive capital S and it takes me quite some time to dust the cobwebs off and try to guide them. I haven’t written in cursive since approximately – well, let’s think about that – since about 1981. Beyond my signature – which doesn’t contain an S – I have not once written in cursive since then. So why make them write the statement in cursive.

Beyond this, does the College Board actually believe that 100% of these students even¬† care enough about the ethics behind this statement? C’mon now.

The second thing that I love – and I mean absolutely love – is when we have to read the statement in the script that announces that the SAT is a tremendous opportunity for the test-takers to demonstrate just how prepared they are for college. The actual line from the script is this: This is your chance to show how prepared you are for college. Remember that bridge that I’ll sell you? Yeah, the SAT demonstrates this as much as my lack of remembering how to write in cursive demonstrates my inability to be productive in the world.

What an absolute joke.

The College Board is making an absolute mint off this test – and it’s the only legitimate reason for why it’s still even used. Students are paying exorbitant amounts of money to take this thing. They pay to register ($47), they pay to register by phone ($13), they pay to be on standby ($41),¬† they pay to change their testing site ($24) they pay to get their scores by phone ($13 per call), they pay to verify their scores ($18 or $12.50 depending on the method), they pay to have additional scores reported to colleges ($10), they pay to have scores rushed to a college ($29), they pay for a retrieval fee for an archived score ($24), they pay an extra fee if their registration is late ($24 – why not just enforce the actual deadline? – oh, that’s right, the College Board can make more money off of those who don’t adhere to deadlines – cha-ching…). If you think that this isn’t about money, well, I’m sorry, but you’re dead wrong – this might truly be the definition of a cash cow.

I haven’t even gotten into the actual concept of the test demonstrating that the students are prepared for college. To believe this is true, you first have to actually believe that none of the things in the previous paragraph are true. So maybe I’m just too cynical – maybe the tests truly are a barometer for college readiness. Well, during my 13 year teaching career, I’ve seen kids who’ve aced sections flunk out and transfer repeatedly from school to school. Do the tests measure emotional and social abilities? Don’t think so. On the reverse end, I’ve seen students score poorly who’ve then fought tooth and nail to get into schools because they were rejected based upon their scores (even though colleges don’t do that, right?) I’ve seen these same students who’ve scored relatively poorly, go on to excel in college and beyond.

Yeah, the SAT is a wonderful measure of college preparedness.

I get it, you’re thinking, but what about the actual questions themselves? Shouldn’t students have a basic understanding of this material and be able to demonstrate it in order to prove themselves ready for college? To this I say two things. First, I can’t speak to the math sections, because I’m a mathematical nincompoop. But I can speak to the verbal sections. If you saw the vocabulary that these students are expected to know in order to show their preparedness, well, let’s just say that my point would be taken. It’s ridiculous, to say the least. Secondly, and most importantly – well, I think I might need a new paragraph for my second point… so…

Okay – my second point is this: if it’s not all about the money generated from this test, then why aren’t we relying on the diploma itself as a reflection that a student is prepared? Shouldn’t the diploma demonstrate these competencies and preparedness? Ultimately, isn’t this what we should be striving for every single day – to make sure that our kids are ready to move on to the next level – whether that level be college or a career? After leaving my class my 10th grade honors students should be more prepared for college – not just Honors English 11. Shouldn’t this be the ultimate goal?

I get it. How does a college differentiate then between students without having something to automatically – and quickly – separate them? Isn’t that why the students are writing entrance essays and why I’m writing 25 letters of recommendation a year? Isn’t that why the students are building their resumes and portfolios? Shouldn’t you interview your students to see if they’re truly the right fit for your school? I can’t even begin to tell you how many high scorers on the SAT I’ve had who can barely stammer through an interview situation.

Oh, that’s right, those things aren’t happening because it’s a money maker on your end, too. I’d love to see Bob Woodward or another journalist who’s worth his salt take a look into the money being made on this. I’d love to know the actual, hard numbers the College Board is bringing in and the money being spent on their lobby. I’m sure they’re both astronomical.

The SAT as a measure of your preparedness for college? That’s just an absolute joke all around.