Making Sense of the FWHS SAT

After months of closures and rescheduling, the in-school SAT at Fairfield Public Schools was proctored on Wednesday, September 23rd.

Amid a stressful hybrid learning environment, an increase in COVID-19 cases, and a decline in colleges requiring standardized testing scores, the question is begged of our community: Was administering or taking the SAT at Fairfield Warde necessary?

In speaking with FWHS Headmaster Paul Cavanna, he expressed the nerve-wracking mitigation that went into planning the in school test. 

“We had to make a decision about where, how, and who would be proctoring the exam, and balance that with everyone’s safety and well being,” Cavanna said. 

This heightened priority of student and faculty well being comes after many educators put “Social and Emotional Learning” into practice, both inside of classes and in virtual learning. This model of education is supposed to decrease aggression and anxiety among students.

With this in mind, the Standardized Aptitude Test seemingly runs completely counter to this new way of learning. 

“We have a system in place that takes instructional time out of the school year so our students can all take a test that, data suggests, correlates with socioeconomic’s and is needed by less and less colleges,” said English teacher Mr. Whaley, a strong advocate against standardized testing amid the pandemic. 

More than 1,600+ accredited 4 year colleges and universities will go “test optional” or “test flexible” for the Class of 2021 Admissions process, as reported by Fairtest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing. Some of these institutions include Harvard College, New York University, and Connecticut’s very own Yale University, all going test optional due to circumstances posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

On September 22nd, The Fairfield Citizen reported that a student at Fairfield Ludlowe High School had tested positive for COVID-19 (released in a statement by Superintendent Mike Cummings to Fairfield Public School families), just one day before the senior classes at FWHS and FLHS took the state mandated SAT. Followed by a closure of FLHS on Thursday, September 24th through Friday, September 25th, Ludlowe would subsequently go on to reopen and close again due to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases. FLHS would reopen on October 5th, despite coronavirus cases continuing to increase in Fairfield County and the state of Connecticut.

Proponents of the exam could argue that the test is an “honest indicator of where [a student] is in their scholastic aptitude,” according to Whaley. That said, there is a fairly direct correlation between a better test score and higher socio-economic status. 

Students who receive top percentile scores are likely to have been a part of a tutoring program or been tutored, and taken the test multiple times across multiple dates. This very often aligns with a family’s financial situation, meaning that a family who has the fiscal means to provide better testing opportunities for their students will do so. Few and far between are the impoverished, inequitable minorities of communities seen achieving high test scores, most often because they lack the means to do so. 

“The literal manifestations of their poverty and their segregation are just going to be codified in some sort of multiple choice, fill in the blank test,” said Whaley, furthering his point by adding, “If it was truly about equity, what we would do is not allow tutoring or test prep, because isn’t the whole purpose of this to see how college and career ready [students] are?”

Being that the September 23rd exam has already long come and gone, there is little that can be done to change the way things transpired after the fact. For Paul Cavanna, it is all about doing what is best for students and family. 

“It is important for me to support all students, and depending on where you are in your journey and if you have a specific school you want to go to, the SAT and the AP are required to some degree to get in,” Cavanna said. “I want to make sure that I support [the students] in being able to go to the school that is the best for [the students].”

 Cavanna understands the situation all too well, having been a standardized test-taker himself.

“Personally I was not a very good test taker,” Cavanna said. “For me, I do not know if the SAT showed my educational aptitude or how intelligent or not intelligent I was. It was more through hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn that allowed me to be successful.” 

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