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The History of the SAT Is Mired in Racism and Elitism

Standardized tests are supposed to be neutral, value-free assessments of how hard students work. The more students study, the more seriously they take their education, the better they will perform on these tests. In high-stakes settings, standardized tests are used as primary determinants of student access to, or else denial of, resources, opportunities, and spaces. The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is one such test. Ostensibly, the students who work hardest will earn higher scores, and those scores will give them an upper hand in the college admissions process. This particular narrative neatly aligns with the illusion of America’s meritocratic tradition: Those who work the hardest will reap the greatest benefits, never mind structural inequality. But studies have proven, time and again, that standardized tests are much better at revealing things like household income, race, and level of parental education than they are at predicting the success of students in college classrooms.

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