The Message of the SATs

I feel a little nostalgic when I hear my daughter talk about the Standardized Aptitude Tests (SATs).  I remember the days when she and her older brothers had to take these tests.  Now, she has children of her own that are impacted by them. Memories of those days are probably much like what occurs now.  Schools labor over the process. Pep talks and rallies are implemented to motivate students to enjoy the conquest of test-taking.  Teachers provide make-ups for children who are absent during the days the SATs are administered.  Upon finale, tests are boxed and sent off to be scored.  It is a busy time.

The story, however, begins a great deal earlier in the school year when teachers are preparing students for the SAT.  They habitually stress doing well by being prepared. They constantly review subject matter and reiterate strategies for doing well.  A great deal of time is spent aiding students to be successful.  Typically, students become apprehensive and often fearful because they are not sure what to expect.  What begins to mushroom is their fear of taking this test.  The fear of failure and of disappointing the teacher, the school, and their parents becomes overwhelming. For many young people that fear is devastating; stress!


But before all this, many students spend endless hours studying and working hard,  committing themselves to making good grades; grades they feel are critical to their future success.  Parents have encouraged their children and supported their efforts by aiding them in their preparation to succeed.  The right message has been retained; study hard, be responsible, complete all assignments, study for all tests, and your accomplishments will evolve into your desired dreams. They do well and their report card demonstrates that effort by revealing As and Bs on their report card, which to anybody is pretty darn good.


But, the SAT has betrayed them. High achievers, who score high on the test, will receive a great deal of praise and collectively aid their school in acquiring AYP (A Year’s Progress) recognition.  They will easily qualify for enrollment in a ‘magnet’ school and continue their journey towards ultimate success, just because of their score.  But what about the high achiever who, impacted by the escalating stress, did not do well on the SAT.  This student, who studied and pushed hard to sustain their good grades for the chance to succeed, must now confront their failure.

One test!  Given primarily to compare and boost school ratings and keep track of children’s progress nationally; presumably for the sake of  the country’s educational ranking.  One test!…..has dashed the dreams of a dedicated student in one fell swoop.  The tragedy?…..  That student with commitment, drive, and determination, who has demonstrated consistent achievement, gets ignored and overlooked when applying to that ‘magnet’ school….. All determined by one test score. Students might surmise that hard work, commitment and dedication really don’t matter because, in all, they don’t pay off.           Is that really the message we want to impart to our young people?

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