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Disparities in Standardized Testing


The SATs and ACTs are a stressful milestone for every high school student. The scores help determine scholarships, college acceptances, and access to so many more opportunities. However, the reality is that despite equal ability, higher income students have a significant advantage when it comes to standardized testing. Here are just a few of the factors that show how.

  1. Test Costs      
    Both standardized test options allow students to retake the test multiple times in order to achieve a higher score. The plot twist is that each test comes with a high registration cost that many low-income students cannot afford to pay multiple times. The ACT and SAT can cost up to $62.50 and $64.50 per test, and the SAT Subject tests, which some schools require, cost $22 per test. Fortunately, test companies now provide fee waivers to assist low income students with at least two free tests, but many students feel discouraged to take it more times than their waivers allow. Higher-income students have the ability to retake as many times as they need until they have their desired score.

  2. Test Prep
    Another significant attribute to income disparity in standardized testing is that high income students have more access to out of school assistance to prepare for the SATs and ACTs, such as expensive test-prep books and paid tutoring. The average cost of tutoring for these tests is $70 per hour. For those who can afford it, tutoring is a great resource that allows students to significantly improve their score; however, it is out of reach for many low-income students who want to boost their score in the same way.

  3. Test Loopholes
    504 designations assist students with specific medical needs in academic testing. For example, students with ADHD are granted accommodations such as extra time or a private room. Many parents go to far lengths to take advantage of the 504 designation to make testing conditions favorable, even if their student does show significant signs of medical conditions such as ADHD. According to a study done by the Wall Street Journal, this practice is primarily done by high-income families.

These advantages go beyond a vast difference in test scores. Not only do they affect admissions, but colleges often award scholarships based on SAT and ACT scores; therefore, higher-income students who have received higher test scores have a better chance at attaining scholarships than their low-income counterparts, even if they have the same grades and skillset. This strongly impacts students who are working towards scholarships to help them attain a college degree they need to get out of poverty.

At Pathway to Progress, we want to ensure that the potential of low-income students is not limited by their financial status and present them with the same ability to succeed as their peers. That’s why we have started a program to fund group tutoring sessions and testing materials for low-income students across Bay County this upcoming fall. Help us reach out to as many students as we can by contributing to our project.

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