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Fighting the SATs and ACTs

Although college entrance exams such as the SAT and the ACT are not state-mandated, they still carry many of the same shortcomings that high-stakes state tests carry: theyre expensive, irrelevant, superficial, biased, and over-rated.

Students Against Testing and Fair Test will be kicking off a campaign to challenge these exams, particularly challenging the college admissions offices that continue to support the one-score-means-all approach to college admissions.

The SAT originates from the racist Army mental intelligence tests of the 1920s and the early talent searches by Ivy League universities during the 20s and 30s. It is primarily used throughout the East and West coasts of the country. The ACT, though often in the shadow of the SAT, is the primary college-entrance exam for students across the Midwest and the South. It is taken by over 1 million students each year. Yet both of these exams have striking similarities when it comes to their effects on students. Both of these exams:

  • Predict parental income more accurately than anything else (According to the college board, students taking the SAT will score an extra 30 points for every $10,000 in their parents income).
  • Have proven to be consistently biased against females, blacks, and latinos.
  • Value superficial test-prep and coaching programs such as The Princeton Review and Kaplan in order to succeed, while taking away time and energy away from real learning.
  • Are used by some colleges and universities as the single factor in determining whether students are admitted or not, and whether they receive scholarships or not.
If the unhappy day ever comes when teachers point their students towards these newer examinations, then we may look for the inevitable distortion of education in terms of tests. Carl Brigham, director of the Princeton University Admissions Office in 1926, the year the SAT was administered for the first time.

Ways to Take Action

Take on the SATs and ACTs at your local college campus - encourage the admission offices to make these tests optional. There are already over 400 colleges and universities that have developed SAT-optional admissions policies of some sort. Heres what you can do:
  • Spread the word and bring together a group of students, professors, parents, and citizens who are interesting in ridding their local college of strict SAT and ACT requirements.
  • Come up with flyers and information on how these exams specifically affect your local colleges potential student body.
  • Get in touch with the admissions office of that college, and try to set up a meeting where that colleges SAT and ACT requirements can be discussed.
  • Emphasize the unreliable, superficial, and biased nature of the exams, and point to the growing number of 400+ universities and colleges where they have developed alternative entrance requirements that do not primarily revolve around single test scores.

Boycott the SAT and ACT

  • If youre a high school student applying to college, consider boycotting the exams. Its a way to prove to colleges that you can be a highly qualified and intelligent applicant without a single test score to get you in the door. Be careful of which colleges you are applying to and think about how gutsy you want to be with this many colleges will not even look at your application if you dont have scores on the SAT or ACT.

Follow the Money

  • Publicize the corporations and businesses that are getting rich of the SAT/ACT testing craze. Let the public know how many millions of dollars The College Board and ETS are making as a result. Publicize the annual reports of test-prep firms such as Princeton Review and Kaplan. Even if they are helping students succeed on a shallow level, they are also preying upon and profiting from the anxiety frenzy that these tests create.
  • Take your exams with style. If theres no way out of taking the exams that you can see, at least get creative and let your opinion be heard while youre doing it. Hold a press conference the morning of the tests where students and activists can explain the problems of the SATs. Hold a mini-rally outside your local test-prep firm or college admissions office. You get the picture.

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