#DegreesNYC Community Hearing

Machiami Kamara of the Youth Leadership Council shared YLC's testimony pushing for #FreeSATPrep for all NYC high school students! Watch her deliver the testimony or read more below to learn about the campaign!

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony calling for free SAT/ACT prep for all New York City high school students.

My name is Machiami Kamara, and I am a member of the Youth Leadership Council of the Resilience Advocacy Project (RAP). RAP is rooted in a simple yet powerful belief: that all children are naturally resilient. All human beings have an innate ability to call upon the resources and supports we need to keep going in the face of hardship. We believe that the way to break cycles of poverty is to make sure that youth can access the educational, economic, and health resources they need in order to fulfill their potential.

Recently, a big stride was made for all of us fighting for equity regarding the SAT. As of March of this year, all high school students in New York City can take the SAT for free during the school day.  We see this as an important first step in removing barriers to educational equity because it is sure to give more high school students the chance to get in the door to college. Cost and timing are two of the biggest barriers keeping underprivileged youth from SAT success and these opportunities help eliminate them.  New York City’s willingness to remove these barriers to taking the test itself present a great opportunity for the City to build on its investment to young people by providing free test prep for all NYC high school students. 

That’s why we are pushing for this campaign in efforts to get rid of inequity that exists within our school systems, as well as the gap in which test prep is provided in some schools while others offer no resources at all. In a 2011 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 89% of colleges said that test scores were of either ‘considerable’ or ‘moderate’ importance when deciding which students to admit.  Consequences of low performance on entrance exams include the achievement gap intensifying as talented students under-match to schools that are not the best fit,  high school and college graduation rates decreasing while dropout rates increase. Because of these consequences, students are not being admitted into colleges that suit their needs and also limits their access to scholarships-- placing a financial burden on the student and family.  It is important that every student gets a fair chance at taking these tests since they impact our future and limit our options.

I am one member of the Youth Leadership Council at the Resilience Advocacy Project.  We, members of RAP’s Youth Leadership Council, are all students from all over the city in the middle of the college process now. We hope to lessen the stresses and pressures future students will have to encounter by giving this free prep. We administered a survey to over 160 high school students in NYC to get a better understanding of what resources are already out there for test prep at different schools, how people feel towards these entrance exams in terms of how ready they were, and if their prep actually helped them feel more prepared to take the tests.  

Our results showed that 43% of the people who had taken the test did not feel ready for it.  37% of students reported that they did no test prep.  Overwhelmingly, students reported that if free test prep were available to them, they would take advantage of it.  91% of the students who took our survey said they would want to do free prep if it were available to them.

The problem we’re trying to attack is the disparity in SAT prep - for example, fancy school equals fancy college. Issues that feed into this include different schools having unequal resources.  At my school, Validus Prep in the Bronx, there is a counselor to student ratio of 1:400, meaning that the counselors are over- burdened and students are unable to build a relationship with their counselor, so they are not provided with the guidance needed for this crucial process.

There is also the issue of some schools not offering test prep. For example: the NYC iSchool is a very small and collaborative school, so resources are shared, but it is the responsibility of the students to take advantage of these resources on their own. Often times these resources are also costly and very selective. So while students are aware of these programs, this does not ensure they will receive help, or help that they can afford.

A feasible solution to many of these problems is free test prep, creating a more fair and equal playing field for all. While the actual SAT test is now free, prep is still not accessible to many students, and as survey results show, we all want it to be more available. This affects our families while creating more obstacles between the family and success for their loved ones and also future generations! It is important they get a chance as well since they are our future leaders.

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