SAT Questionable Path to Happiness

Jessie Kathan, News Editor

College Board won’t stop sending me emails.

I haven’t the heart to tell them that second semester of my senior year is not, in fact, “The Perfect Time to Take the SAT.”

Don’t worry, College Board. We’ll meet again in April in the glory of AP week (you still hold the power to bring me to my knees).

The purpose of standardized testing is to provide a common ground for evaluating student achievement, to make college admissions fairer and slightly more objective. What it has become is a “non-profit” organization which, according to Americans for Educational Testing Reform, has a board of directors and a CEO paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and has been investigated for unethical practices.

Here are the effects of standardized testing I have seen in my life in my community:

A desperate desire to achieve: the phenomenon of a fourteen year old glued to flashcards during free time. The idea that the definition to “erudite” may be the difference between a top tier college and no future.

A tendency to cheat: media across the nation have uncovered so-called “professional test takers” that pose as students, sometimes for thousands of dollars. Shocked investigative reporters and shame-faced perpetrators make this treatment of the test seem terrible and completely unethical.

But how fundamentally different is this kind of cheating from tutoring services that guarantee score increases? “Higher score guaranteed or your money back.” “We guarantee a 150 point increase!” All for the price of fifty, a hundred, up to thousands of dollars in tutors, programs, and books, not to mention the price of potentially re-taking the test two, three, even four times. Only in this case is it acceptable to have a system that blatantly rewards students who have extra money to pay for a high score.

The fundamental difference, of course, is that students are, in theory, working for their scores. But the fact that companies can make these kind of guarantees reveals the central flaw in standardized testing, one that tutoring companies love exploiting and explaining to potential customers: it’s all a game. And once you know how to work the system, its as easy as pie.

And all of this? All of the crazy expensive anxiety-provoking side effects? We, as a campus culture, celebrate it. Thank God for our high average SAT score. Let’s guide kids into the highest number of APs possible.

In just a few weeks, the red houses will go up by the office, separating the Ivy-Leaguers from the community college-bound, and every underclassman walking down those halls will grip their flashcards with renewed vigor. Because as everyone knows, your life is your future, your future is your college, your college is your score and your score is your flashcards.

After all, it’s the only way to achieve happiness.