American Indian Studies
The College Board's Native American Student Advocacy Institute (NASAI)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT have been widely accepted within the United States (U.S.) as predictors of a student’s likelihood for college success. As such, they are a required piece of the undergraduate college application at many U.S. colleges and universities, and thus essentially serve as a gatekeeper to higher education. However, the actual availability of these tests on or near reservations across the U.S. is limited. As a result, countless Native students have inadequate access to these tests, and consequently, to higher education. Such circumstances illustrate the challenge many Native students across the U.S. face in relation to access to post-secondary education opportunities. The purpose of this study is to examine the availability of SAT and ACT standardized testing in Indian Country and across the U.S. using quantitative data obtained from official SAT and ACT databases and reports.
This investigation stems from a pilot study this researcher conducted that examined the presence of SAT testing centers in Arizona in relation to the state’s reservations. Using the official SAT website databases, this initial investigation looked at the specific location of SAT testing centers between the dates of December 2014 and June 2015. These preliminary findings showed that of the 22 reservations in Arizona, only two of them hosted at least one SAT testing center on each official test date. This means that students on 90% of Arizona’s reservations had no opportunities to access this crucial test within their own communities. This current study aims to expand upon the findings highlighted in the pilot study and further investigate the presence of SAT and ACT standardized testing across the U.S., particularly in relation to Indian Country. Collectively, this analysis seeks to provide deeper insight into the role standardized testing has on college access for Native high school students, both on and off reservations.
Standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT have been widely accepted within the United States (U.S.) as predictors of a student’s likelihood for college success. As such, they are a required piece of the undergraduate college application at many U.S. colleges and universities, and thus essentially serve as a gatekeeper to higher education. While not all institutions of higher education in the U.S. require applicants to submit SAT and/or ACT test scores, such as community colleges as well as tribal colleges and universities, the majority of mainstream institutions still do. Therefore, the ability of a student to apply to college depends largely upon their ability to access these tests.
Despite the current requirement for SAT/ACT scores to be included in application processes at the majority of U.S. higher educational institutions, the actual availability of these tests on reservations across the U.S. is limited. As a result, countless Native students living on or near reservations have inadequate access to these tests, and consequently, to higher education. Such circumstances illustrate the challenge many Native students across the U.S. face in relation to access to post-secondary education opportunities. For these reasons, this study seeks answers to the following questions: 1) Do Native students living on reservations have equal access to SAT and ACT testing centers as students living off reservations do? 2) How can Native students’ access to the SAT and ACT be improved to increase their access to higher education?
The relationship between the location of SAT/ACT test centers and reservations also directly impacts the future potential of Indian Country by restricting educational opportunities for future leaders. In Postsecondary Education for American Indian and Alaska Natives: Higher Education for Nation Building and Self-Determination, Brayboy, et al. (2012) define the process of nation building within Native communities as one that “consists of legal and political, cultural, economic, health and nutrition, and educational elements with the well-being, sovereignty, self-determination, and autonomy of the community” (p. 13). Within this framework, the authors argue that there is a clear and direct connection between higher educational attainment of Native students and the impact these achievements can have on the ability of Native Nations to build their communities and governments in appropriate ways. Brayboy et. al. explain that at the core of this ideology is a reciprocal relationship in which “pursuing higher education folds into a larger agenda of tribal nation building, and vice versa – that nation building cannot be fully or adequately pursued without some agenda of higher education” (2012, p. 27). However, in order for nation building to occur, the citizenry must be qualified to do so, usually only attainable now through higher education. This connection between attaining higher education and Indian Country’s nation building capacities emphasizes the need for greater access to the SAT and ACT for Native populations.