Improving While Black: Kamilah Campbell should be Celebrated

When you’re black and excellent, institutionalized racism will say you cheated. After working her ass off to improve her score by 300 points, a Florida high school student is having her SAT score questioned and invalidated. On her first attempt, Kamilah Campbell scored a 900 out of 1600. Not satisfied with her score, Kamilah studied, attended tutoring, and took SAT prep courses to prepare for a retake.

She killed the retest and improved her score to 1230 on her next try, but her celebration was short-lived after what her attorney, Ben Crump, said is possible implicit bias. ETS, which manages tests, issued a letter stating, ” based on substantial agreement between your answers on one or more scored sections of the test and those of other test takers,” suggesting Campbell cheated to improve her scores. Crump believes the suggestion of cheating is tied to the belief that a young black girl could not have improved her scores as much as she did without some help from other students around her.

Even though the deadlines to apply to her school of choice, Florida State University, have passed Campbell vows to fight back. “They tell you that you need to practice and work and study to do better, but then when you do better they question it. They’re saying I improved basically too much,” said Campbell. She and her family and working with their attorney to urge College Board to review her test scores in time for Campbell to apply for FSU’s dance program.

The SAT is far from being culturally competent, but that does not imply that students of color cannot do well when taking it. This is not the first time College Board has had to deal with controversy over one of its tests. An investigation should be launched into these allegations as per its own guidelines; cheating is highly unlikely and near impossible when proctors and site administration follow test proctoring guidelines. What is more likely? Implicit bias. Kamilah Campbell should be celebrated for working hard to improve her scores, not penalized.


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