Things That Matter

The SATs Have A Problematic And Racist History Fueled By The Creator Of The Test Who Praised Eugenics And Racial Separation

The college scandal of 2019 —thanks to Aunt Becky and her wealthy cohorts— is just a recent look at how privileged people can easily change the outcome of tests and admissions only by forking money over to do so. Academic-based bribery is hardly a new scheme in the admissions process and the ways in which the system has become intricately rigged to keep out minorities is only just beginning to gain exposure. Minorities and low-income people are marginalized when it comes to admissions, test scores, and the workplace — it’s a system that continuously unbalances society.

When it comes to the SATs, an assessment test meant to categorize students solely on academic merit, this truth is no different.

The original intention behind the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is to show where a student stands among their peers, to indicate what their next educational move should be.

The SATs date back to the mid-1920s.

Carl C. Brigham, a psychology professor at Princeton University whose early writings strongly influenced the eugenics movement and anti-immigration legislation in the United States, created the SAT for College Board in 1926. Brigham proposed and produced the test after make observations that he said proved “American education is declining and will proceed with an accelerating rate as the racial mixture becomes more and more extensive.”

According to PBS, the College Board “puts him in charge of a committee to develop a test that could be used by a wider group of schools.” And “In 1926 the SAT is administered to high school students for the first time.”

However, the wording as to why students had to take the SATs in the first place is marred with racial discrimination.

The SATs came during an immigration wave, and college boards and universities wanted to define who would be allowed in. The test doesn’t necessarily attest to who is smarter but more extensive information about the student, their race, and economic background. And yet, college admissions board do not consider this a factor in their admissions process. Proving that in a deeply flawed and unequal educational system, where segregation is still alive and well, colleges and education systems continue to fail students of color and those who are not. After all, research has shown that diversity in school’s only further benefits students, particularly in fields that are related to critical thinking and problem-solving.

The truth is that high-stakes standardized tests work in ways that reinforce racist and discriminatory systems of old. Continuing to accept notions that standardize tests are merit-based only perpetuate the race and class gaps reflected in their results.

Now the SATs will include an “adversity rating” that will allow colleges to know the school that a student came from to evaluate them in a more fair way.

The rating — 1 to 100 — would help the college board (who own the SATs) understand a student’s quality of education based on the neighborhood, the school’s economic standing, and other relevant information. So, if a student doesn’t do very well on the SATs, the rating would reveal as to the hardships that student endured. The rating does not include information about their race, but more so the economic struggles.

Some people feel that the “adversity rating” is something people could take advantage of by lying about where they live.

For example, if a parent knows that their child may not do well on the SATs they could lie about where they live to get a better adversity rating. This would help them achieve a better score.

“The idea that ‘this is a great SAT score for someone from your neighborhood, for someone of your background’ — it’s not fair to the students,” Venkates Swaminathan, a college admissions consultant told The Washington Post.

Others say the “adversity rating” will be a significant boost to go alongside affirmative action.

“Merit is all about resourcefulness,” David Coleman, chief executive of the College Board, said to the New York Times. “This is about finding young people who do a great deal with what they’ve been given. It helps colleges see students who may not have scored as high, but when you look at the environment that they have emerged from, it is amazing.”

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