from the LATimes Homeroom Blog
November 25, 2008
Dear College Board,
It’s over. My long-running battle with you and the numbers you seek to define me by is finished. As my final act of surrender, I seek to prove, once and for all, that your tests say nothing about me or any creative student who submits to them.
First of all, to assuage my terrible relationship with math, every day for one month last year I went to my math teacher at six o’clock in the morning to mend it. I go to one of the top and most intense magnet schools in Los Angeles, take challenging classes, and am in the top 10% of my class. I read because I love to read, not because I’m forced to. I respect my teachers and I am absolutely addicted to learning. I am in multiple clubs and hold several leadership positions. I voluntarily wake up early and stay out late on Saturdays to protest for equal rights. I do community service around my city and around the world. I’m highly curious about everything. I play three instruments and write my own music. I have amazing friends from multitudes of cultural backgrounds and I am simply and enthusiastically passionate about living — qualities that don’t amount to a College Board number.
High school trains us to find our own voices, to figure out in our own innovative ways how to make a difference. Colleges advertise themselves as wanting to accept individuals willing to challenge themselves and be involved in their communities. How, then, does it make sense to judge us each by the same exact test?
College Board, I have taken your SAT twice, both times receiving the same score. The first time, I spent a fortune for a tutor, the second, I didn’t. Now, my results on that test can very possibly negate my exceedingly hard work and great grades I’ve earned over the last four years. They have the possibility of diminishing evidence of the radiating passion I have for learning and living. My results on this money-hungry test will tell the institutions I want to attend that I am not good enough; that I am not “prepared for college,” as you so kindly script in your introduction to the test, even though I am positive I will do just as well or even better than anyone who is paired with a higher set of numbers than mine, and my teachers would agree.
I understand that money is an issue to you. But I feel that it’s becoming the sole reason you administer this test. Today, for example, I wrote the College Board to ask a question about one of my Subject Test scores. In response, I was called a “customer” — not a student, not a person, but a customer. If that is not enough evidence for the nature of this test, then I don’t know what is.
Your numbers do not reveal a person who wants every opportunity to learn, to contribute and to change the world. While all other aspects of my life assure me of my abilities, your test negates them. For $45, you invalidate my commitment of hard work and you do the same for millions of high school students around the world who contribute great things but are not wired to do well on your tests. So, College Board, I hope that you hear me and those I speak for. Rather than treat us as customers who fill your coffers, regard us as the inspired students you claim to cultivate.
Thank you for listening and I hope to hear from you soon.
• Phoebe Smolin, a senior at Hamilton High School, is a mixture of dedicated student and laid-back human being. When in school, she is active in all of her classes as well as involved in various clubs including Youth Task Force and Nevians. She also writes for Hamilton’s literary journal. Outside of school, she takes part in political protests, plays various instruments, takes pictures, travels, and, of course, writes for The Homeroom.