Opinion – removing SAT subjects is worsening educational inequality, what can be done?



“Standardized Test Close-Up” by biologycorner is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Laaibah Tayyeb, Writer

In mid January, the infamous College Board announced that it would be permanently discontinuing the administration of the SAT Subject tests and SAT essays to better adapt to the pandemic-era admissions process. 

SAT Subject Tests, specifically, are college admission exams on specific subjects, such as Chemistry, World History, or French. Unlike AP exams, SAT Subject Tests are not based on the curriculum of a specific course, so students can still show off their knowledge outside of the classroom. 

“The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to reduce and simplify demands on students,” the company announced, and many high schoolers have had mixed feelings about this decision. 

Either way, the removal of these Subject Tests will undoubtedly increase the importance of AP exams in the college admissions process. 

“AP exams are already hugely important in highly selective college admissions,” said Brian Taylor, managing director of a private college consulting service called Ivy Coach. “This move by College Board hammers home their importance.”

However, many students at Osbourn are at a disadvantage from this recent decision. With a number of AP classes not offered at our high school, many students who wish to go to college are not given the same opportunities as they may get from another high school. 

For Osbourn, these unequal opportunities in education don’t stop at the number of AP exams offered. In 2020, with 38.9% of students economically disadvantaged, and a whopping 17.8% of students dropping out instead of without completing high school or pursuing higher education according to the Virginia Department of Education, any action to decrease college readiness would do more harm than good. 

So, what’s the solution?

As a junior at Osbourn, I can confidently say that changes to the college admissions process are scary. Figuring out courses and being adequately challenged in school is difficult, and being in a pandemic with online school doesn’t make things easier. But perhaps most of all- finding the inspiration and motivation to be successful, not only in high school but also beyond, isn’t something you can do all on your own. 

Coming from a well-off background, with older siblings who went to high schools in relatively affluent areas and later studied at affluent colleges, who dealt with the college application process and were surrounded by a plethora of opportunities, I’ve always had inspiration around me, and a big incentive to be successful in and after high school.

I assumed that the discussion of high school quality was something as simple as “certain kids I don’t care about school.” However, I’ve realized the issue isn’t black and white, and the solution is something even less clear. 

One thing that I do know, however, is that love for knowledge and the aspiration to become the best of your abilities is not something available to people making above a certain income, people of a certain race, or people living in a certain area. I do know that Osbourn is home to amazing teachers and administrators who care about your future and are there to help you pursue your dreams (as long as it’s not a high school dropout). And I do know that the College Board’s decision to remove SAT Subject Tests will not be a deterrent for students of great potential to achieve their aspirations.