The Problematic SAT

Tomas Torres-Garcia
Professor Zugnoni
University Writing Program 001 018
Word Count: 1240

The Problematic SAT
Montclair High School focuses more on the State Exams than they do on the SAT’s. The Sate Tests do not send students to prestigious Universities, the SAT’s do. The letter is addressed to Thomas Thomson, the President of the School Board.

Dear Thomas Thomson,
Five years ago Montclair High School was ranked second to last in the district due to the low scores on the California State Tests. Today, that has changed and is now tied for second best. However, there is still a specific problem that is not being addressed. Montclair prides itself every year during graduation based on the number of students that are receiving a diploma. Every year the number of students graduating increases tremendously. If we look closely at the details, less than 20% of those graduating students are attending a four year university, and out of that 20% only about 5% stay in school and graduate college. Why it that the second best school in the district is not sending enough students to a four year university?

I am writing to you today Mr. Thomson, President of The School Board, to address this issue that has been lingering around for years now and has not been confronted. Montclair is doing excellent when it comes to the state tests. Students’ scores rise more and more every year because the school and instructors focus on encouraging students to succeed when it comes to these tests. However, the school does not focus on the real issue, the SAT’s. The state tests are not crucial towards college acceptances, but the SAT’s are. The students of this establishment are left to fend for themselves and prepare for these tests that will most likely determine where they will end up in the next four years. It can either be pursuing a higher education or in the streets. I was a student of Montclair and I know how stressful these exams can be. Like many other students I was on my own, for most of the time, which caused me to be frustrated and stressed out because I had no support. I had no one to help me with the vocabulary or the confusing math questions that make up the SAT. Without support the students are taking this monstrous test with a blind fold over their heads. This is a community of families chasing the American dream. Parents send their children to school hoping that they get the education and preparation they need so that they can attend college and live a better life. They expect the school to help their children prepare and be well informed, not lost and confused.

The hardworking students need help so that they can be well prepared for college. Helping the students prepare for the SAT will also increase the acceptance rate of graduating seniors into four year universities which will make the institution and the district appear a lot more prestigious. In order for the high school to have more success sending their students to college, the school and district need to assist the students in preparing for the SAT’s. The school already hosts Saturday academies to prepare students and help them with questions that they might have regarding the State Tests. The school can simply use the same idea and have similar academies for the SAT’s. In these SAT academies students should be taught the vocabulary and how to deal with the confusing material in the SAT. This will not only improve the number of students that are attending a four year university, but it will make the community, the city and the whole school district shine because more college degrees means more recognition to the place where the students came from. It is worth sacrificing one Saturday a month to helping students out and improving the acceptance rate of the graduating class into more prestigious universities. How will this work you may ask? I assure you that this will work because I attended some Saturday academies at a local college to help me prepare for the SAT’s once I saw that the school was not going to help me and now I am at a four year university. Many students cannot do what I did and pay to attend classes like these. Most of them do not have the funds because their parents can barely make enough money to put food on their tables.

The other members of School Board may argue that the cost of these Saturday academies are extremely expensive and that the funds are simply not there. However, the only expense will be the SAT practice books and paying instructors. However, a lot of money does not need to be spent on special instructors or special material. The regular instructors can lead these Saturday academies which would be way cheaper than hiring special instructors. Even if the students only take practice exams and learn the vocabulary this would benefit them extremely. With time the academies can improve. The instructors can be trained on how to address more complex material in the SAT. Minimal actions like this will make a huge impact on the students because they will achieve better scores and gain new knowledge that they can use once they are in college. This operation is a lot more beneficial than expensive and if it is too expensive, then I am sure the students will be more than happy to fundraiser as long as it is for higher education. The outcome of this small financial investment is beneficial to improving the retention rate of the Montclair High School students once they reach a four year university.

In college, many students find themselves lost and confused on reading assignments and text books because of the high level vocabulary that is used. This frustrates students because they spend most of their time attempting to decipher the readings and trying to understand what is going. This causes them to spend less time in other subjects and eventually, just like their grades, the students drop out. Their dreams, their goals and their college education are all thrown down the drain because they did not come into college better prepared. Sadly, I have seen many of my fellow peers go through this and it is very disappointing because of how much potential they had to be successful. The Saturday academies can change this, they can help students go into college better prepared. All this and more can be accomplished with just a simple investment that will change lives. The Saturday academies will help establish a base of knowledge that can carry the students further in the SAT. My friend Kristan Saldivar, an Undergraduate Business Major at the University of Pennsylvania, focused more on the SATs by spending money in order to learn the basic vocabulary skills and testing techniques needed for these tests. I recently talked to her and she explains that most of that basic vocabulary that she learned shows up in most of the college readings and she does not have to keep looking in the dictionary. I have experienced this myself. The little time that I spent in classes that taught me test taking strategies for the SAT’s help me now in college. I go through the same process that I was taught to use for the SAT and incorporate that into my college exams. This makes the college exams a bit less stressful, if it was not for the preparation and help that I received, then I do not know where I would have gone or if I would have even done well on the SAT.

Montclair High School deserves change. The parents of the community work too hard and are hopeful that their children will not have to work as hard as them. Except, with the focus being on the state tests and not on the SAT’s it is more likely that their children will not get the preparation they deserve. This is the reason why only 5% of Montclair’s graduating class is still in college, and the rest of the graduating class is back in Montclair, working at McDonalds or in the streets. Now they can only imagine what they could have become if they had been better prepared for the SAT. Montclair High School needs to see change now.

Tomas Torres – Garcia
Montclair High School Alumni
Undergraduate Aerospace Engineer Major, University of California, Davis


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