SAT Pressure: To What End?

Ticket to Where, Exactly?

I’m surprised we don’t hear more stories like this one [excerpt and link below], in which a recent high school graduate was paid about $2000 by 6 current high school seniors to take the SAT for them– ostensibly to get higher scores, in their names, than they could have gotten themselves.

Some of the sources quoted in this story [excerpt and link below] cite the pressure that parents put on their offspring to get into “good” schools. If the pressure felt by these boys is enough to lead to fraud, something’s amiss: another sign of a culture gone out of balance.

I can’t read this as a “lapse in ethical standards” story, although that is a subplot. The real story here is the pressure, and more pointedly the questions that go unraised as we uncritically accept the status quo of school and college admissions as “the way things are.”

Questions like: What is education for? What counts as a “good” school? What is success– how is it defined? Is the way that our culture defines “success” a way that I value, reject, or some of both? What kinds of opportunities are important, in order that a person may lead a meaningful life?

Life has pressure and is stressful. The things that pressure and stress us, say something about who we are. May the sources of our pressure and stress be worthy of our high calling– a calling to live into the fullness of the lives we have been given.

The case of a Great Neck, N.Y., man accused of being paid to take the SAT for high school students is once again prompting questions nationwide about how much cheating goes on in the world of high-stakes testing. It’s also renewing concerns that the pressure placed on students to score well on a single test, which plays a big role in determining the academic future for so many high-schoolers, may be encouraging them to cheat.

Six students at Great Neck North High School are facing misdemeanor charges for allegedly paying $1,500 to $2,500 to Samuel Eshaghoff to take the test for them, according to a news release Tuesday by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice….

Great Neck is a wealthy community, and the fact that such a scandal is playing out there “is an illustration of the SAT arms race that takes place, particularly in very affluent towns where kids think they are failures unless they go to a school where their parents would be proud to put the bumper sticker in their back window,” says Robert Schaeffer, spokesman for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing in Boston, Mass., which tracks and critiques standardized tests….

via SAT cheating scandal: Are stakes getting too high for college admission? –


2 thoughts on “SAT Pressure: To What End?

  1. This is an incredibly confusing topic, especially in New England where the college culture is so dense. If you tell your child to place less emphasis on testing and brand names, they think you are telling them they should not try to excel. The college they think they want may not be a place where they will be happy and of course who is to say what environment is ideal and whether the investment will result in a career or even a job? It’s a terrible time to be making these decisions – the uncertainty is palpable at all levels of society, so the teenagers have it particularly hard.

  2. Thanks for raising more questions, and for giving a more-in-depth description of the tensions, tradeoffs, and outright predicaments that are alive in this issue, as families attempt to negotiate this life transition in the midst of gusty winds and rough seas.

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