The cost of standardized testing disproportionately affects lower-income students

Ava Bruce, Staff Writer

I remember signing up for the ACT, and on their page, I was immediately subjected to ads recommending a $300 course to prepare for the test. I was astonished. All I could think about was how many students would see that and know that they would never be able to afford it. 

During most students’ junior year, they need to take the SAT and ACT for the best chance to get into college and receive scholarships. The cost for the SAT is $55. The ACT is $60. Prep courses can cost anywhere from $100 to $1000. These numbers make it clear who can afford to score high on the tests and who can’t.

In the early 1900s, standardized testing was implemented to help lower-income students have a higher chance of graduation and to close the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income students. Even with the No Child Left Behind Act (2002) and the Every Student Achieves Act (2015), the gap is still wide open. 

The economic disparities between lower-income communities and higher-income communities give higher-income students an increased chance of doing well on standardized tests. The ability to afford test prep and multiple test retakes ensures higher-income students can get the highest score possible, while lower-income students have a much lower chance of achieving that goal. Two students may have the same academic ability, but one will have more opportunities to look academically strong on paper. 

Clearly, testing is not the answer to help every student succeed. We, as students, are so much more than test scores. Our writing, our extracurriculars and so many more academic-related judgments show more about us as people than test scores that can easily be influenced by preparation not everyone can afford. Every student deserves the chance to succeed fairly, regardless of their economic status.