A simple, four-digit number. A number that over a decade of stress built up to. A number coveted by some, looked down upon by others. A number similar to that which the Princeton Review promises its necessarily more wealthy students. A number that complete strangers would use to determine my collegiate and thus professional fate. And yet, that number – my SAT score – is just one quantitative data point that better reflected my momentary test-taking ability on one random Saturday morning than the whole of my outstandingly qualitative intellectual capability.
To rely so much on any singular test is dangerous, especially one of which demographical analysis often raises concerns of racially, economically, and otherwise socially biased questions. Even the very nature of “SAT Courses” are to train students just in how to take the exam. This implies there is simply a procedurally superior approach to this test other than just “being smart” – the only quality most teachers and college admissions representatives want to gather from the exam.
Obviously, my solid performance on the SAT did not make me feel any better about its ridiculous importance in the college admissions process. Although the general trend in recent years seems to be towards indifference to this impervious but overrated exam, there is certainly still a need for an objective way to compare the students’ aptitudes before college and professional life. For this to be possible, our education system as a whole needs to adapt to allow for more systematically qualitative assessment of students.
It will not be easy, cheap, nor immediate, but it is the most effective away not only to guarantee fairness and equal opportunity in a system currently lacking it, but to secure a future protected by a competent generation. And, for better or for worse, it starts and ends with the teachers. Hiring and, more importantly, keeping, effective teachers is crucial. Ridding ourselves of antiquated rules regarding tenure and seniority should coincide with meaningful teacher evaluations based on student feedback rather than grades earned. Similarly, smaller class sizes and significantly more personal interactions between teacher and student will lead to student evaluations that will be far more telling and useful to admissions offices than a rough numerical estimate of a person’s “raw intelligence,” as they have convinced themselves exists.
The details of such a comprehensive and enormous change in policy will require obnoxious amounts of coordination at nearly every level of our education system, from macro to micro, the scope of which is far beyond the boundaries of a guest blog post inspired by the mental meanderings of an engineering student who finds discussing the problems much easier than implementing solutions, the latter requiring endless debating, bureaucracy and – most probably – run-on sentences. If only I had a decent writing teacher in seventh grade…
(Side Note: I was his 7th Grade writing teacher. )