Kamilah Campbell has always been a dancer. More than her passion, her dream is to use dancing as a platform to achieve a college degree, a career and financial stability. To fulfill her dream, Campbell made it her mission to be accepted to Florida State University, whose dance program appeals to Campbell’s goals and aspirations.
As a senior and honor-roll student at Dr. Michael K. Krop, she knew that passing the Standardized Assessment Test with a high score would play a major part in whether she could attend her dream school come the fall semester.
However, the process of attending has become a nightmare for Campbell, while at the same time has shed light on some inherent issues associated with standardized testing.
In December, Campbell, a Miami Gardens resident, announced that her October SAT scores were flagged by the College Board and the Education Testing Service, or ETS, two powerful, deep-pocketed entities that few dare to challenge. Campbell’s scored improved more than 300 points after scoring a 900 in her first attempt, but her official scores of an estimated 1,230 have never been officially released.
ETS believes that Campbell cheated or had previous knowledge of the test.
Campbell maintained her innocence and after a few press conferences and the involvement of civil-rights attorney, Ben Crump, her story garnered national attention. “Most people were supportive and encouraged me to fight for what I believe in,” Campbell said. She got encouragement from the local community, the NAACP, and the Miami-Dade County school board.
Campbell became the voice of many students – especially in zip codes that have historically Black residents – who suffered in silence when their test scores are flagged. Campbell was one of the few students who decided to fight the culturally insensitive approaches of ETS. Her case reminded people that students are not subject to the unclear, arbitrary rules of institutions like ETS and that change comes when the community rallies together for one another.
“If you are flagged, don’t try to handle the situation by yourself,” she said. “Ask for help because I found out that people do care.”
ETS gave Campbell the option to provide proof that she did not cheat or retake the test, but in many previous cases, students were not extended that courtesy. As of today, ETS has not validated her October SAT scores.
Campbell’s courage to challenge the testing service’s decision has inspired Crump, the school board and the NAACP to review what steps and procedures are in place for students and their families when test scores are challenged and what options are available to address the situation in a speedy manner.
Campbell, still set on attending FSU this fall, is retaking the test – now a third time.
“My future of having the experience of American Dance and related studies at FSU is of vital importance to me,” she said. “For this reason, I have decided to retake the SAT and prove that I am capable of scoring higher than a 900.”