As a nation, we have grown accustomed to centering our belief of a high school student’s intelligence on a standard pen-and-paper test. These college entrance exams carry a heavy weight in determining one’s eligibility for admission and even scholarships. This is the reason why many people will drop hundreds of dollars for test preparation to achieve a higher score. The importance of these tests is also why many wealthy individuals are caught bribing or altering tests in hopes to get their children into the most elite schools. The ranking you lie on has a key role in ascertaining how successful you would be in life and what opportunities would open for you.
The beginning of the SAT
The first form of standardized testing began in World War I with the phycologist Carl Brigham. Brigham, the father of the SAT, was infatuated with calculating human intelligence. He created the Army Alpha Test, which measured the intelligence of millions of soldiers through puzzles that required one to complete mazes, decrypt symbols, and dissect images. He wrote “A Study of American Intelligence” and analyzed the score of each test by race. He established in his writings that the race that was most intelligent was white people of English, Scottish and Dutch descent. In contrast, the lowest rankings were minorities: black people and immigrants. However, these findings were not accurate because the aptitude tests were laced in bias that ignored barriers that minorities faced during this time. Brigham disregarded that some of his tests would prove difficult for individuals who could not speak English. He also did not put into consideration that some individuals were excluded from ever obtaining a proper education. Brigham insisted that each score revealed an inherent aptitude of distinct races. For this ideology, he wrote in “A Study of American Intelligence” that American education levels were declining because of black people and “will proceed with an accelerating rate as the racial mixture becomes more and more extensive.” Therefore, Brigham concluded that our nation should be concerned about the “epidemic of racial admixture” because the “incorporation of the negro into our racial stock would taint the population.” Following World War I, Brigham devised a new test: The Scholastic
Aptitude Test (SAT).
The Broken System
Standardized testing does not just pertain to measuring student’s intelligence but also reflects wealth inequality. As illustrated by data collected by the College Board, families that earn less than $20,000 have scores that are below average. In contrast, as each income bracket increases, the scores also improved. Students with the wealthiest incomes score an average of an 1150 on the SAT while students from low income households struggle for an 850. Education systems that are grounded in lower income locations primarily lack proper funding. Hence, schools that are in more affluent locations receive better test scores for they have more funding for education and test preparation. Therefore, the wealthier students have further opportunities and tend to go to more prestigious colleges. Stanford researcher Rey Chetty found that the elite who attended Ivy League colleges earned a standard of $171,000 each year, while the middle class who enrolled in public colleges earned an average of $87,000 each year. In turn, individuals who enlisted in community colleges earned only $67,000 each year. The conclusion of his research is that through this category, the wealth was adopted by their children. These aptitude tests have become the beginning to the endless cycle of systematic oppression in America.
Gateway to addiction
Prescription stimulants Adderall and Ritalin are drugs that are provided to individuals with ADHD or ADD. However, the most common users are just regular students abusing these stimulants for better test scores. As illustrated by The Partnership for a Drug-free America, approximately three quarters of “study drugs” abusers are students using these stimulants for academic improvements—helping individuals stay alert, concentrate, and improve cognitive process during an exam. The problematic increase in the usage of these “study drugs” has caused many substantial health concerns and has led to severe drug addiction. The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse demonstrated that these drugs have constructed levels of high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and mental illness among students.
The fate of a student’s admission into college mirrors the score that one receives on standardized test. These tests have caused an extreme weight to be placed on the shoulders of young students across the nation. Should such a simple pen-and-paper test have the power to impact the rest of your life?