in misguided ways by schools
To the editor:
We as clergy, parents, and citizens have dreams for our children’s futures which go far beyond the walls of our local high schools. Throughout their childhood, we have tried to instill in our young people the value of a good education, and the hope that if they work diligently, set their expectations high, and work to their highest potential that any dream is within their grasp. Their futures can take them to a vocation of their choosing, perhaps even to the highest office in this land. We are idealists, but, unfortunately, we live in a real world that sometimes places obstacles in our student’s paths which they must overcome.
One of a parent’s greatest challenges is helping his teenager create a vision for himself that will take him successfully into adulthood. This is not always easy. Each child has different interests and abilities, and it is our responsibility to help each one find his place. That place is not always immediately perceived. Young people often explore many career options and paths before discovering the one right for them. There should be no shame in this exploration, and our roles as adults should be their encouragement and support.
One of the possible paths our children explore is higher education, the college degree. While not necessarily the personal objective for every individual, it is certainly an option that, in recent years, has brought higher salaries and greater potential for employment. Shouldn’t every child have the opportunity to explore this path that could lead him into a more comfortable life? Shouldn’t every student have the chance to pursue a college education if that is his dream?
The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is a standardized test administered by the College Board. It is one of two national tests that most colleges use in their admissions process. There are really two legitimate uses of these test scores – college admission and scholarship qualification. In recent years, however, the practice of releasing and disseminating information about the SAT scores in Chesterfield County has promoted or fostered inappropriate comparisons between high schools in the county.
Never was the SAT intended as a tool for comparing schools, districts, or states since the population of students tested may not be comparable. However, have these comparisons already affected testing practices among high schools in our county? The pressure upon high schools due to these comparisons may actually be affecting our students much more than we know.
Studies have shown that states with the lowest proportion of students taking the SAT typically have the highest SAT scores; such states test scores come from a smaller number of more select students, showing that schools can raise scores simply by excluding students. Have schools within our county succumbed to unfair practices against our children? Are our students being denied or discouraged from taking the SAT in order to raise high school testing reports?
It seems the high schools in the county are adopting different philosophies to address the issue of improving SAT scores. As noted, fewer test takers usually result in higher overall scores. However, such an exclusionary philosophy does not necessarily promote the concept of educational opportunity or access for all. Schools such as Cheraw High School, who do publicly promote the SAT, including study and instruction to prepare, should not be penalized by comparisons with schools practicing exclusionary practices. Do such policies of exclusion or inclusion exist within our county with regard to SAT participation? You be the judge. Here are the facts concerning the 2007 and 2008 SAT’s:
The percentage of seniors tested at Central High School decreased 13 percentage points from 27 percent to 14 percent from the previous year.
The percentage of seniors tested at Chesterfield High School decreased 9 percentage points from 34 percent to 25 percent from the previous year.
The percentage of seniors tested at Cheraw High School essentially remained the same, only decreasing 1 percentage point from 38 percent to 37 percent from the previous year.
While the percentages noted are telling, the actual numbers are perhaps even more revealing. In 208, 143 students took the SAT in Chesterfield County with over half (78) being from Cheraw High School. Yes, more students took the SAT at Cheraw High than the other three high schools in the county combined! Is this coincidence? We think not!
Before our school district chooses to follow national trends by making comparisons based upon SAT scores, we encourage them to consider the overall educational mission to provide services for all students. By placing less emphasis upon the test scores of a few and more emphasis on the content of the curriculum for all, Chesterfield County School District can make a difference – the difference that will promote opportunity and success for everyone.
The Rev. M. Diana Charles
The Rev. Jerry Corbett,
The Rev. Jerry T. Hardison, Sr.
The Rev. Samuel L. Sparks III