School Talk

Removing Barriers: Step 1, Free Access to the SAT

Rhode Island 10th and 11th graders took the PSAT and SATs for free for the first time this year. The PSAT was administered in the fall and just last week, during the school day, high school juniors took the SAT.  They are the first cohort of students to benefit from Governor Raimondo’s free SAT/PSAT plan that ultimately made it into the budget for this year.

This is good. Until this year, our numbers of students taking the SAT —which serves as a gatekeeper at many institutions of higher ed—has been too low. Not only has it prevented far too many of our students from moving on to higher education but it has played a significant role in perpetuating our economic woes.

Last year when the proposal came out, WPRI shared this from the Governor.

Raimondo said fewer than 60% of Rhode Island public school students took the SAT during the 2014-15 school year; about 38% took the PSAT. (WPRI)

More Free Stuff?

I’m not going to lie. I am growing a bit weary of hearing local talking heads describe education proposals as if they are the equivalent of handing out free cell phones and sneakers.  The latest idea that has them tied in knots is the RI Promise scholarship which would pay for 2 years of college tuition for all students who attend CCRI, RIC, or URI but this particular blog isn’t about that proposal; instead, the goal for now is to celebrate the first round of SATs accessible to every single Rhode Island student.

Leveling the playing field when it comes to education is precisely what’s meant by the American Dream. 

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It’s difficult  for people of means to comprehend the barriers that face those who live on far less money and whose family background lacks expertise around navigating the college admissions process in America.

PSAT, SAT, AP, FAFSA. This can all sound like gibberish to a student who will be the first in their family to attend college. It’s confusing and overwhelming for the most experienced among us so it can feel almost paralyzing to people for whom it is all new. Schools who get it right work hard to fill in the gaps for their students but any time we can remove a barrier for kids, we should.

Many of us remember getting up early on a Saturday to take the PSAT or the SAT. Some of us had spent the prior months taking a pricey SAT preparation class. Our parents knew how to make both of those things happen. And could afford to make them happen.

The fees, the transportation to the testing site, the prep class. They could swing it.

But what about the parents who can’t swing it? Why should the SAT/PSAT be harder to access simply because a student’s family doesn’t have a car, can’t pay the testing fee, or is working at the precise time he or she needs a ride to take the test?


If we aspire to run a system that’s equitable, a system that promises the same opportunities to all students, it is essential that we remove the barriers over which we have control.

And access to the SAT and PSAT fits that bill.

Barriers be gone.


What do you think?

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