College Board Under Fire for Deciding Black Student Did Too Well on Her SAT

Illustration for article titled College Board Under Fire for Deciding Black Student Did Too Well on Her SAT
Screenshot: CNN

When Florida high school senior Kamilah Campbell’s SAT scores didn’t stack up the way she wanted, she worked hard to do better—but that might not matter now.


“Kamilah explained that she took the SAT for the first time on March 10 with no preparation. Between then and October she practiced diligently, working with her teachers, receiving tutoring, and regularly accessing the preparatory resources of Khan Academy,” according to a statement from attorney Ben Crump.

All that diligence is being called into question now that the scores from Campbell’s retake have been declared “invalid” by the Educational Testing Service and the College Board. Campbell hoped to study dance with a business minor at Florida State University, but she may miss the deadline now—she and attorney Ben Crump are pushing for a review before the application cutoff in a couple weeks, but the College Board usually takes four to six weeks to review score disputes.

From Crump’s statement:

“It is not for ETS, a private corporation, to define the limits of human achievement and betterment,” Crump said. “In concluding that the only way Kamilah could have improved her score so substantially was by cheating, ETS defamed Kamilah’s character and replaced what should have been appropriate and motivating personal pride with shame and confusion.”

Although Kamilah provided a sound explanation and evidence for her improvement, ETS has refused to relent, denying this promising and dedicated student access to a college education, the funds to pay for it, and fulfillment of her dreams.

While the College Board maintains that “a score is never flagged for review solely on score gains,” per CNN—they seem to be pointing toward something like similar test answers being the cause of the invalidation—Campbell and Crump adamantly believe that the increase in her score was the “problem” that was found. Based on conversations Campbell had with representatives from the company, she believes her overall score increased by about 300 points.

Campbell refuses to allow her work to be tainted by what seems like an accusation of cheating—and a chorus of friends, family, and professors have spoken out in her defense. From the Miami Times:

Professor Julio Estrada taught Campbell during the 2017-18 school year. He noted Campbell’s desire to improve while in his class.

“[Campbell] struck me as an individual who worked hard to improve her grade in my class,” he said. “During her time in my class, I never witnessed any dishonesty or other issues with integrity coming from her.”

Honor student Temprest Toombs helped Campbell as part of her independent study for the math portion of the test. The two met once a week for close to two months prior to the October test.

“I offered [Campbell] help on the math section with the use of the Princeton SAT book,” Toombs said. The book is the same one Campbell used with her tutor. “Most of the [study] sessions were supervised by my mom,” Toombs said.


It should never go unnoted that the SAT, in the first place, has been notorious for race and income inequality for test takers—the fact that there’s an entire lucrative industry around taking the test, heavily promoted by the College Board itself, makes that particularly damning and honestly makes the whole thing look like a glorified racketeering ring.

So to see a black student push beyond the utter bullshit of the SAT and ostensibly do everything right only to be told her scores are invalid is utterly frustrating and reeks of hypocrisy.


The College Board, however, seem confident that their review process is sound, per CNN:

“At the end of the score validity process, we will only cancel scores if we are confident that there is substantial evidence to do so,” Goldberg continued, without offering a time frame. “We never cancel scores on score gains alone.”


We certainly hope they aren’t just standing in the way of a black girl’s dreams to defend the integrity of their little test, but time will tell—hopefully sooner than later, though.

Natalie Degraffinried is a senior editor for Kotaku.



When we win according to their stacked rules, they change the rules.