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The Real SAT/ACT Cheaters: Schools
Most of us are probably past the college scandal involving rich, well-known celebrities who cheated on college testing boards to get their children in to their preferred schools. But now, it’s not just the rich who try to beat the system by leveraging their child’s ACT or SAT scores. Increasing numbers of students are getting extended-time modifications on college entrance exams. I’m not to judge because these students need them. They are reading way below grade level and the schools are deceiving our parents and children. They are awarding these students with stellar grades that should reflect overall academic excellence, including the ability to read textbooks at their grade level— and learn from them. But I have been sadly informed that school educators have different criteria.
If you have read any of my blogs on RTSsuccess.com, you may already know that smart students aren’t’ necessarily the strongest readers. While many high schools do not require textbook reading, both parents and students become shocked when they find that their 4.0+ students did not fare well on their college board exams. Their child is smart and their grades reflect this; but when P-ACT or P-SAT’s low scores are revealed, both students and parents become bewildered.
This situation is extremely complex
When this happens, many middle and upper-class parents opt to have a psychologist assess their child. When a bright student with a low standardized score is evaluated, the psychologist will often find that she is reading below grade-level. The diagnosis can likely be mild dyslexia. Dyslexia, in simple terms means, “the inability to read by conventional means.” Many psychologists consider students dyslexic when they are reading at least two grade-levels below their current grade-level.
The psychologist, will in-turn write a recommendation letter to the college boards asking for a time modification. Then, the student has the advantage of getting 1.5-3 times the amount of time to take the exam. Double-time may provided when dyslexia is coupled with another diagnosis, such as anxiety, ADD, or ADHD. Triple-time may be provided when students are unable to pronounce/decode the words.
For bright students who are strong problem solvers, the extra time will allow for figuring out how to comprehend the text. But other students who are reading well-below grade level should also receive additional testing time. Based on the fact that 2/3 of high school seniors are not prepared for college-level reading, shouldn’t everyone get extended time?
For the last 10 years, I’ve witnessed increasing numbers of upper-middle and upper-class families who are unwilling to sit back and accept that their child’s reading skills are hindering acceptance to their choice university. I’m on their side. But is this fair to those students who couldn’t afford testing, or didn’t know about psychological testing options? These students have the identical academic profiles (4.0 and low college exam scores). Let’s level the playing field for all—give everyone extended time!
Colleges/Universities are in the dark
The next issue is how colleges look at ACTs and SATs: Colleges are unaware when testing is modified. Prior to 2003, ACT and SAT notified colleges and universities when provisions/modifications were made. In 2003, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) prohibited ACT/SAT to disclose accommodations because it was discriminatory against students.
Accommodations can be extremely unfair
A few years ago, my heart was broken. My dear friend’s daughter, an A student with numerous accolades, including strong school and community leadership skills, confided in me. She was deferred from her first-choice university. She expressed that she didn’t “cheat” like her other friends, who were recently tested by a psychologist so that they could receive extended time-accommodations. Her friends had lower grades, less leadership skills, and had less extra-curricular and outside activities. But their ACT scores were slightly higher. They were accepted, first round, into their choice universities. And as for my friend’s daughter, a “perfect fit” for her first-choice school: luckily, she ended up getting accepted, but many students are not as lucky.
Test scores do not provide colleges data for finding with the perfect
The SAT and ACT assess aptitude. Colleges and universities want to evaluate students’ reading proficiency. This means that students are tested on their ability to read content information and demonstrate conceptual knowledge. But when a student gets a strong score with extra time, it is unlikely that he can demonstrate the same ability in college. College exams mostly reflect the textbooks’ materials. So college students are expected to read textbook information for each exam. This means that colleges aren’t providing students with extra reading time or a semester-and-a-half to read a textbook.
The bigger issue is that colleges review and accept students’ SAT or ACT scores that closely correlate with their rigor. If a student is provided double time at a top college, he will not be able to keep up with the workload, which involves—reading—lots of reading!
The elephant in the room: Schools
Schools are crippling our students and some parents feel hoodwinked. A crucial educational secondary component is missing—strong reading skills. This is forcing affluent parents to find a band-aid solution so that their kids can get into their preferred college institutions. After all, they thought that the schools were providing a sound education that will allow their child to compete in upper-level academia. But when parents receive psychological testing scores and find out that their 11th grade, 4.0 student is reading at the 3rd or 4th grade level, parents are crushed, and they worry about their child’s self-esteem.
But this issue goes much deeper: Now we have a student who is frightened because although he finally got into his choice school, he realizes that he may not be able to succeed with the deluge of required reading.
Schools need to step up and re-establish secondary reading programs for all students. We had them until the late 1980s and students’ scores reflected that secondary reading programs worked. Many students read way below grade-level because schools stopped the buck after elementary school. Bring back secondary reading and make schools accountable! Parents, please get involved with your local schools and let them know that every student has the right to learn to become a strong reader.
What are your thoughts? Please feel free to reach out at Cindy@RTSsuccess.com