The Cardinal Times Spring 2021 Issue

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PAGE 10 • The Cardinal Times, SPRING, 2021 OPINION

Editorial Board: Considering the SAT—the outdated

test catered to those with privilege



As Lincoln begins offering the SAT to

students again after a hiatus of nearly a

year, we should take this opportunity to

consider whether now is the time to curtail

standardized testing, or even do away with

the system entirely.

The first SAT was administered in 1926

by Carl C. Brigham, a eugenics professor at

Princeton University, who essentially developed

the test in an effort to divide students

by race.

In his book A Study of American Intelligence,

Brigham wrote, “American education

is declining and will proceed with an

accelerating rate as the racial mixture becomes

more and more extensive.”

The SAT is used by colleges to compare

different applicants, evaluate their college

readiness and decide who is most “worthy”

of going to their school.

In reality, the test does the opposite. The

ability to do well on the SAT comes down

to privilege.

For non-native English speakers, the

SAT reading and writing sections are significantly

more difficult, as the test is currently

only offered in English.

In 2018, U.S. census data reported that

only 10.1% of white and Asian people are

living below the poverty line, compared to

25.4% of Native American, 20.8% of Black

and 17.6% of Latinx citizens.

According to a report by the Brookings

Institute, which looked at data for all of the

nearly 1.7 million college-bound seniors in

2015 who took the SAT, the mean score on

the math section of the SAT for all test-takers

was 511 out of 800. The average scores

for Black (428) and Latinx (457) students

were significantly below those of whites

(534) and Asians (598).

Among top scorers—those scoring between

a 750 and 800—60% were Asian and

The SAT has become unequal across races over the years.


33% were white, compared to 5% Latinx

and 2% Black. Meanwhile, among those

scoring between 300 and 350, 37% were

Latinx and 35% were Black.

These numbers are not surprising. Class

and race are intersectional. Privileged individuals—typically

white, upper class—can

easily change the outcome of tests and admissions

by forking money over to do so.

The test itself costs $52, and prep courses

can cost thousands of dollars. The average

cost for an SAT tutor is $45-100 per hour.

For minorities, who are more likely to be

low-income or experience poverty, lack of

access to prep courses and tutors has continually

resulted in lower scores, leading to

further marginalization.

While there are some more affordable

options, such as free after-school tutoring

or using SAT study guide books (which still

cost up to $50), for some students, time is

money. Studying long hours for the SAT

isn’t practical for students balancing school

and a job to support their family, taking

care of younger siblings or focusing on

sports to ensure a scholarship.

Lower test scores also lead to less opportunity

for “merit-based” scholarships,

which many students rely on for admission

to university. In order to attain these scholarships,

one must have a high standardized

test score—yet another arena in which minority

groups fall behind their white counter-parts.

The SAT enforces racism and the link

between race, income inequality and test

scores: more money leads to more success

on tests, in turn helping some students get

into better schools, giving them the opportunity

to acquire better jobs, and the cycle

goes on.

As some schools begin to go test-optional

because of COVID-19, we are already seeing

the positive effects.

A recent study released by the National

Association for College Admission Counseling

found that, when a test-optional policy

is adopted, it does seem to help diversity.

Not only is there an increase in applications,

but also an increase in the number of

racial minorities, women and low-income

students admitted.

Another study conducted by Brian M.

Galla, a psychology professor at the University

of Pittsburgh, suggests that grades

are likely a better predictor of college graduation

than SAT scores.

The SAT, along with the ACT and other

forms of standardized testing, were all developed

on similar principles and perpetuate

the same classist, racist, privileged

ideology. The only way to create an equal

playing field for all students is to abolish

standardized testing and rebuild our current

education system.

Op-Ed: It is time to get rid of class rankings


We are not numbers. And yet, every student

at Lincoln High School has one.

Students across the country are given a

number, known as a class rank, which measures

their GPA-based performance compared

to their classmates.

When students constantly compare

themselves to each other, it enforces the

idea that their worth is tied to their class

rank in school.

With our class ranks online, available to

us day and night, and on every report card

sent in the mail, it’s hard not to see ourselves

in terms of competition: better than

some students and worse than others.

Ranking students does provide recognition

for the highest GPAs, but it negatively

affects the educational experience for those

with lower GPAs. Even for those ranked

highest, this competitive structure adds

another layer of pressure for them to keep

their status, which experts understand is

harmful to teens.

Researchers at the National Academies

of Sciences, Engineering and Math warn

that youth at high achieving schools like

Lincoln are more at risk for behavioral and

mental health problems than the national


Not only are class ranks unhealthy, but

they ignore the fact that people excel and

find passion in different aspects of life, not

necessarily just by getting the best grades.

With pressure to do well from parents, colleges

and peers, some students purposefully

choose to leave behind what they truly

wish to do in exchange for a higher GPA.

“A client of mine told me that taking music

or journalism was out of the question

because she couldn’t justify what it would

do to her GPA. I can tell you there was a

lot less joy in her curriculum,” said David

Altshuler, an education consultant and expert

of the college admission process, in an

interview for the Washington Post.

The pressure to conform to one path often

leads to burn-out and fatigue. Therefore,

by the time some students reach college,

they are unable to recognize what’s

actually important to them.

Alfie Kohn, an author and lecturer, is

an avid supporter for the abolition of class

rank and grades and has written hundreds

of articles speaking out against our country’s

obsession with test scores. He advocates

for the removal of class ranks, beginning

with small steps.

“A high school might start by eliminating

them for freshmen, giving students

one more year to be able to focus on the

learning itself. Or, at a minimum, they can

eliminate the particularly noxious practice

of ranking students against one another,

which turns academics into a competitive

sport and designates the victor as ‘valedictorian’”

wrote Kohn on his website.

While the long-standing tradition of class

rank is still in use today, I urge Lincoln administration

and educators to rid of class

rankings and find other ways to motivate

their students.

Lincoln sophomore expresses her thoughts on

how class ranks are outdated and need to be



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