Commentary: It’s time to ditch the SAT

In a recent commentary piece in the U.S. News, Nicholas Tampio calls for the need to have an education system that teaches students to be thinkers and not standardised test takers. Mr. Tampio articulated his views in light of the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) that all American students take in high school to earn admission into college, to become eligible for scholarships, or because their state uses the SATs to satisfy the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal law passed in 2015.

Mr. Tampio posits that the SAT “corrupts nearly every level of the education system” and urgently calls for “other ways to measure student learning and facilitate the college admissions process”. His main reason for this is the philosophy of education that the SAT is based on, particularly the requirement for students to cite evidence in support of their understanding of texts in both reading and writing. This philosophy, according to Mr. Tampio, only teaches students to regurgitate evidence and not think for themselves. The SAT does not encourage or ask students to express their own thoughts, make connections outside of the text, display creativity or ask critical analytical questions. It thus “teaches children a narrow range of test skills, not ones that will prepare them for selective colleges, entrepreneurship or active citizenship”.

Furthermore, the high stakes of the SAT and the pressure to perform well in it, means that students tend to spend most of their time on SAT preparations rather than seeking more fulfilling activities like reading books, playing musical instruments or spending time with their family and friends. Schools will also gear their entire literacy curriculum around preparing for the SAT, perhaps in favour of other holistic programmes that may develop students’ potential further.

While Mr. Tampio has trenchant criticisms of the SAT, his views are not without merit. The SAT was first developed in 1926, some 92 years ago. The world has changed much since then. In fact, many of the world’s most successful people today, the same ones who have since changed the way we live through technological advancements and the like, did not even finish college. Yet, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are all innovators in their own fields. The difference is that these successful individuals had the motivation and drive that led them to excel. Thus, if we were to think about it, should the focus of education be about a series of assessments or motivating students to learn?

If you want to find out more about Mr. Tampio’s views on replacing the SAT, click the following link:

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