Editorial | Maintain test-optional policy for future classes
April 26, 2021
Standardized testing is archaic. If there has been any coherent lesson from the tumultuous pandemic, it has been the revelation that the American College Testing and Scholastic Aptitude Test are wolves in sheeps’ clothing towards the genuine intention of academic discernment.
Following its announcement in June of last year, the University has committed to no testing requirement for incoming students from now through the 2023-2024 academic year. Recognizing COVID-19’s limitations on the ability for students to complete the test — being that there are no sanctioned large gatherings — the University rightly ceased the standardized requirement.
However, between uninterrupted admissions scandals and accusations of wealth inequality, standardized testing nowadays embodies a crooked institution rather than a prized academic service.
The University, therein, must dedicate itself as test-optional going forward, postponing its previous requirement forevermore.
Designed as a conclusive method for determining elusive applicants, college admissions have heavily relied on these assessments for generations. Their time, nonetheless, is running out. Many universities, presently, have ditched these disingenuous exams in recognition of their inability to factor in socioeconomic factors.
In a 2019 analysis by The Hechinger Report, prospective student Julia Tomasulo is exhibited as a profound example of the ACT and SAT favoring the wealthy. Tomasulo, who took the ACT three times, is recorded as having her parents spend $3,500 in tutoring. Additionally, having the opportunity for daily practice tests, Tomasulo — sure enough — achieved admission to her “chosen school.”
Although Tomasulo showcases affluence aiding successful tutoring, no worse demonstration of standardized testing’s inadequacies arrives than in “Operation Varsity Blues.”
Launched as an effort for elite children, “Varsity Blues” is chronicled by prosecutors as an effort where “parents paid a college test prep organization to help students cheat, either by having stand-ins take the tests for the teenagers or by arranging for proctors to correct answers.”
Working with more than 750 opulent families, William Rick Singer — the “ringleader” behind the admissions scandal — received a total of $25 million for his “services.” Singer, likewise, pleaded guilty in 2019 to the charges of “racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges” and faces up to 65 years in prison.
The College Board — the administrator for the SAT — in response to this overt blemish on their already damaged reputation acknowledged this misconduct by merely stating, “those who facilitate cheating on the SAT — regardless of their income or status — will be held accountable. The College Board has a comprehensive, robust approach to combat cheating.”
Yet, cheating by way of flagrant accessibility to wealth-related resources endures for these socioeconomically driven exams.
Pre-dating the pandemic, the recent trend away from testing requirements illuminates that the ACT and SAT are decreasing in university utilization. Similarly, a list compiled by FairTest — an organization advocating against barriers to fair admissions — revealed that over 1,400 colleges and universities currently possess test-optional policies.
In the Washington Post, journalist Valerie Strauss noted the pandemic’s onslaught and “disillusionment with the testing industry” combine to demonstrate “the beginning of the end of our obsession with high-stakes standardized tests.”
It is the University’s responsibility to ensure all hold the possibility for enrollment. Accordingly, departing this requirement allows for further diversity and opportunities for those not solely judged on standardized scores.
When the SAT and ACT play a lesser role, admissions are better feasible for all. Considering the University of Chicago adopting an optional position, UChicago subsequently reported record acceptance for low-income, first-generation, rural and veteran students — groups exceedingly struggling with access/admission to higher education institutions.
With regards to specific statistics, UChicago also outlines that first-generation and low-income commitment increased by 20%, while, notably, rural enrollment improved by 56%.
The data is clear: The ACT and SAT are obstacles to progress. With the pandemic temporarily halting the University’s exam obligation, this policy must be extended for all future classes. Testing cannot comprehend socioeconomic factors, nor is it an equal playing field for all wishing to be examined by merit, not affluence.
Standardized testing is broken. The option — for those inclined to continually engage the exam — certainly may survive, but the obligatory duty ought to withdraw from the higher education process.
There are areas an SAT or ACT will never measure: socioeconomic struggles, lacking access to satisfactory K-12 education or racial and cultural blockades. Furthermore, with the wealthy’s obtainability to fortunate tutoring — or, occasionally, outright cheating by way of fraud or rowing teams — the system is rigged against those without appropriate means for triumphant test taking.
Per the University’s emboldened pledge for vehement incorporation, a commitment to being test-optional is the ensuing stage for equitable consideration to higher education.
The voyage towards optional testing endures. The question remains whether the University will recognize standardized testing as the failing assessment it is or wistfully crash by not fastening itself with the future of college admissions.