TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Kamilah Campbell wants to go to Florida State University and major in dance. She has a 3.1 grade point average and a lifetime of dance experience.
But after getting her score from the SAT after her first try — a 900 — Campbell decided she needed to do better. Her mom got her a tutor, she took online classes and she got a copy of a The Princeton Review prep book.
Seven months later, in October, the high school senior from Miami Gardens, Florida, took the test again.
Later, when she got an envelope in the mail from the testing company, she was shocked when she opened it.
It was a letter. Not results.
“We are writing to you because based on a preliminary review, there appears to be substantial evidence that your scores … are invalid,” it said. “Our preliminary concerns are based on substantial agreement between your answers on one or more scored sections of the test and those of other test takers. The anomalies noted above raise concerns about the validity of your scores.”
Campbell felt like she was being accused of cheating and she wants to know why she cannot get her new score.
“I did not cheat. I studied, and I focused to achieve my dream,” she told reporters Wednesday. “I worked so hard and did everything I could do.”
She believes her second total score was flagged because it was so much better than her first. She said she called the company and a representative told her she had a combined 1230 from the reading, writing and language, math and essay sections on her second effort. A score of 1600 is perfect.
“They tell you that you need to practice and work and study to do better but then when you do better they question it,” she told CBS.
Zach Goldberg, a spokesman for The College Board, the company that conducts the SAT, said a score is never flagged for review solely on score gains. Score gains are celebrated, he said.
Scores could be flagged for a number of reasons, including testing sheets having similar answers or an incident occurring at the testing site, he said.
Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, a Florida State graduate, got involved when asked to help by other FSU alums. He is steering Campbell and her mother through the process of demanding The College Board validate her score in time for her to be accepted into the Florida State dance program.
At Wednesday’s news conference he said they are giving the company two weeks to respond to a demand letter.
He reiterated that they believe the score is not being validated because Campbell improved 330 points.
“Instead of celebrating her and celebrating her achievement they are trying to assassinate her character, and we won’t stand for that,” he said.
Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, the chief spokeswoman from the Miami-Dade School District, said the situation was “disturbing.”
“Although this is a test administered by a private entity, and not M-DCPS, we feel a moral obligation to intervene,” she said. The school superintendent has asked The College Board for assurances the investigation will be quick.
Goldberg said reviews typically take four to six weeks.