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Do you think standardized tests like the SAT and ACT accurately assess students’ academic knowledge and skills? Do they provide an accurate indication of how well students will perform in college-level coursework? Do the scores serve as an objective benchmark for colleges to compare students nationwide, taking into account differences in high school education, family background, and community?
Or are standardized test scores, such as the SAT and ACT, unjust and unreliable?
In “Why Is the SAT Falling Out of Favor?,” Shawn Hubler poses the question: “Are the tests that were initially intended to diversify the Ivy League beyond wealthy prep school students a valid measure, or are they, as one University of California regent described them, ‘a proxy for privilege?'” The article continues:
The California system has become the largest and most well-known American higher education institution to distance itself from the use of the two main standardized tests, due to allegations that they put disadvantaged students at a disadvantage, particularly those who are economically disadvantaged, black, or Hispanic.
In the past decade, over 1,230 colleges and universities have made the SAT and ACT optional for admission, according to FairTest, an organization advocating for an end to testing requirements.
However, with a few notable exceptions, such as the University of Chicago, most of these institutions have been small. The question now is whether the decision of the 300,000-student California system will mark the beginning of the end for college admissions testing.
“The SAT has proven to be remarkably resilient,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education. “But this may prompt other public universities to ask themselves, ‘If the University of California can do without it, why do we still need it?'”
The article also provides a rationale for why test scores are still considered in many college admissions decisions:
Admissions officers typically consider multiple factors, not just test scores.
However, proponents of retaining the tests argue that colleges need some form of broad benchmark to compare students from different school districts and states. Eliminating the tests at large colleges would require revising the entire admissions process — retraining admissions officers, revising applications, and rethinking the entire methodology.
The tests provide valuable information beyond academic achievement. Some studies have shown that SAT and ACT scores, when combined with a student’s grade point average and other factors, can help predict their success in college, particularly in the critical first year.
A faculty task force at the University of California found that standardized tests were a more accurate predictor of college success than high school grades. The task force also found that including the SAT and ACT in the admissions process benefited some black, Hispanic, and low-income students by providing an additional metric for those who may have otherwise been rejected based on their grades.
Regarding the University of California’s decision to no longer consider applicants’ SAT and ACT scores, the article states:
Critics argue that the tests have inherent biases in favor of affluent, white, and Asian-American students, citing decades of data. During the recent debate among California regents, numerous speakers described the exams as “racist.”
Detractors also claim that the tests can be easily manipulated by students who can afford expensive private coaching and test preparation. Carol Christ, the chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, has long advocated for a move away from standardized testing in admissions and referenced the recent college admissions bribery scandal as an example, calling it “grotesque.”
Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the University of California argue that the use of these tests perpetuates existing disparities. According to the College Board, which administers the SAT, in 2019, 55 percent of Asian-American test takers and 45 percent of white test takers scored 1200 or higher on the SAT, while only 12 percent of Hispanic students and 9 percent of black students achieved those scores.
Advocates for a change argue that it is fairer to assess students using other measures, such as teacher recommendations. Some studies suggest that high school grades are a better indicator of a student’s likelihood of graduating and overall performance in college.
Some school officials argue that the tests are unnecessary. Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the chancellor of California’s community college system and a University of California regent, reminded the board that the university already admits tens of thousands of transfer students who are not required to take standardized admission tests.
Students, after reading the entire article, please share your thoughts:
Were you surprised by anything you read in the article? If so, what? Have you taken the SAT or ACT? If yes, do you believe that your score accurately reflects your knowledge, skills, and potential for success in college and beyond? Please explain.
Have you applied to any colleges or universities? If so, were SAT or ACT scores required or optional? Did the admissions department’s standardized test score policy influence your decision to apply? If yes, how?
If you have not taken the SAT or ACT, do you believe that you will have to take them at some point? What have you been told about the importance of standardized tests for your academic future? Has reading this article supported or challenged your viewpoint? Explain.
In the absence of SAT and ACT scores, how should admissions departments evaluate applications? To what extent can high school grades and teacher recommendations replace test scores in determining whether to admit a student or offer scholarship opportunities? Do you believe this could create pressure on teachers to inflate grades or provide glowing recommendations for all students?
Critics argue that there is inherent bias in standardized testing, and as described in the article, some people view the exams as racist. Why do you think these critics hold this belief? What is your stance on this issue? Do you believe there is a potential solution, and if so, what would it look like?
You also read about allegations that standardized testing favors students from families who can afford test preparation courses and private tutors. Should this type of preparation be available to all students in an effort to level the playing field? If yes, where do you think the funding for these classes and tutoring should come from? Do you believe this approach could help solve the problem? Please explain.
Students aged 13 and older are welcome to share their comments. All comments are reviewed by the Learning Network staff, but please bear in mind that once your comment is approved, it will be made public.