My son is friends with a girl who grew up in the foster care system. Her mother left when she was a toddler. Then her dad died of a drug overdose. In front of her. We have known her only a short time, since a family adopted her at age 15.
She was at our apartment when Z was taking a practice SAT math test. She had not heard of the SAT. She said her sister did not take it. But the friend didn’t want to sit around while Z took it, so she joined him.
I told her she should just take it for fun. Then I set the timer.
The two of them went to Starbucks while I scored the tests. Z didn’t even finish half the questions. I will have to get him extra time because of his brain injury. But his friend got 100%. I double checked. I couldn’t believe it.
I called them to tell her. She said, “Okay. Thanks for letting me know. See you back at the apartment.”
I prepared a bit to say to her when she got back. But she didn’t believe me that most kids don’t get a perfect score. Z confirmed that it’s true. She brushed us off
For about a month I took time when she was with Z to explain to her the ramifications of getting a perfect score as a Black, high school sophomore coming out of foster care. She didn’t believe me that people want kids like her at their college. It seemed preposterous to her.
But after that, it seemed like a burden to her. The mental shift for her was huge. I finally dropped the topic when she told me, “What I really want right now is me and my sister stay together with the new family.”
Of course: She can’t think about college when she is worried about having a home.
I’ve read about how the SAT is a great equalizer and that’s why MIT reinstated it after COVID. It was hard to see the test as an equalizer when I have been hiring so many tutors. But now I appreciate that MIT requires the SAT. Of course they can tell when it’s useful. It never occurred to me there are girls like my son’s friend – her extreme brilliance matched by her extreme fears.
The knowledge that she exist is hard to hold. I want it to be hard for you, too.