Support for the SAT
Here's an opinion you won't find very often: a high school student writing in support of the SAT standardized test.
Before you blow this off as illegitimate or ludicrous, let me explain myself. Believe me, I have plenty of beef with the College Board corporation after dealing with them for the last three years of high school and paying them exorbitant fees
for the privilege of taking tests that try to quantify my potential value for colleges to judge. However,
giving credit where it's due, College Board has made some real improvements to the SAT test that have gone underappreciated by my class.
Last year, College Board — the company in charge of administering SAT and AP tests to high school students — came out with a complete redesign of the SAT test. Critics attacked the old version of the SAT because the test clearly favored students who had the funds to pay for SAT tutors who could teach kids the tricky ins and outs of the exam.
For example, the old SAT included jocose, extraneous and downright pedantic vocabulary that only people who studied Latin roots could decipher. This left kids without tutors high and dry when it came to the English section of the exam. Furthermore, the old SAT penalized any incorrect answers by deducting .25 points from the raw score. These kinds of tests require different kinds of test-taking strategies, and therefore the test was unfair to those without access to outside resources.
The SAT redesign does a fantastic job of addressing these issues and leveling the playing field. The test no longer penalizes kids for incorrect answers, the math questions are much more straight-forward, and they have done away with the obscure vocabulary. This creates a test that does a much better job at assessing the skill set of test takers rather than just their test taking strategies.
The other crucial aspect of the redesign that has gone rather unnoticed is the free online tutoring available through Khan Academy. At no charge, all students have access to test prep material and personalized help with a range of SAT subjects. This solves the inequity that was caused by the old SAT where paying for tutors was the only way to get ahead. Now, the system rewards kids that take advantage of the online resources to improve their scores. In fact, it was found that kids who spent 20 hours using the Khan Academy resources saw an average of a 115 point increase from their PSAT score to their SAT score.
It's encouraging to see this step towards equal opportunity for education. Not only does this give students without the financial resources for a tutor a better chance to succeed, but the redesign also directly incentives kids to take test preparation into their own hands and to personalize their own education. This is an exciting and important advancement that I hope future high school students take full advantage of.
So although I am personally celebrating the fact that I have finished the last of my high school standardized testing, I'm also celebrating the fact that the SAT test will be more accessible and manageable for future high school students.
Keaton Whittaker is a 2017 Wilsonville High School graduate.