Colleges are slipping back on SAT and ACT scores, but the tests will be hard to beat (2023)

Franziska Barczyk casal NPR

Colleges are slipping back on SAT and ACT scores, but the tests will be hard to beat (2)

Franziska Barczyk casal NPR

Like many high school counselors, Crys Latham has paid close attention to colleges announcing that they will no longer require entrance tests for applicants. She is a big fan of giving students the opportunityNoPresent your test results.

"We consider the schools of choice for each and every one of our students," says Latham, who directs the university advisory at the Washington Latin Public Charter School in the nation's capital. "Because we know that not all students will do what their grades get, and a student's test scores are not indicative of their potential or ability to succeed."


Other colleges are making standardized test scores optional for the next school year.

Other colleges are making standardized test scores optional for the next school year.

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In recent months, Latham has had many new schools to add to these lists. Almost daily, more and more colleges announce plans to weaken the role of test scores in admissions, if only for next year's applicants.

It almost started when the coronavirus closed schools across the US.A wave of schools announced that due to the pandemicthey would place less emphasis on standardized tests. If students didn't have access to spring exams, how could universities demand them?

Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland was one of the first schools to use the coronavirus as a catalyst for change, but dozens more have followed. Some became test-optional, others test-blind. Some policies were only valid for a year, others said they will test the idea for two or three years.

But then the canceled spring test dates became canceled summer test dates. In a June statement, the university board that administers the SAT urged colleges and universities to "show flexibility" when it comes to admissions tests, essentially calling for a change to the temporary policy on optional tests.

Other schools followed. University of Virginiait was an optional test for next yearas well as ivy league schools like thatUniversity of Pennsylvaniaydartmouth college. Das California Institute of Technology ou Caltech,advertised to be blind test, which means that the tests for the next two years are not taken into account.

For future college students, the pandemic has created "debilitating" uncertainty

As schools continue to revise testing guidelines, Crys Latham has updated its students. She says she's thrilled with the news: "I now have kids who would never have seriously considered these schools before, who wouldn't even see them as an option for them because they felt the results didn't matter to them for the opportunity to record," she says. , "but now they're like, 'Oh wow! Maybe I have a chance... maybe it's possible for me.' 🇧🇷

"We saw the writing on the wall"

(Video) Should my student take the SAT, ACT, or go ‘test optional?’

It's not just students and families who are paying attention; Other universities are also on the lookout.

Christine Harper, associate dean for enrollment administration at the University of Kentucky, says she's thought a lot about the guidelines for optional testing, but the timing just wasn't right.

The pandemic "really made us want to have this conversation on our campus," she says. "We saw the writing on the wall."

The university has been following announcements from other schools, and Harper says the college board's statementColleges and universities are urged to be flexibleit helped too.

In Kentucky, the statepays students to take the ACT at school, which means, says Harper, that most domestic students have access to it, so there was previously no urgency to fake the exam on admission.

But this spring, there were still a handful of students who applied for next fall who didn't get a chance to submit their tests, andTherefore, the university was lenient with the test requirements.for this coming fall.

That's opened the door to more opportunities: The University of Kentucky is in the process of becoming a "soft test," meaning students can choose whether or not they want to apply with a test score, Harper says. There was no formal announcement and it's unclear how long the flexible policy will last, but Harper hopes to have more details for students and families by mid-July.

perception is everything

With all the debate about test scores, it's worth remembering that only a handful of schools in the United States are actually very demanding. Nearly 50 schools have acceptance rates of less than 20 percent.

these schoolsthey make up about 3% of US colleges and universities, according to the Pew Research Center🇧🇷 More than half of American universities accept two-thirds or more of the students who apply. Many public four-year universities and community colleges are open access, meaning they don't have competitive admissions. Exams are not required.

Community colleges have long since eliminated these entrance tests, says Laurie Franklin, who oversees student enrollment and financial services at Everett Community College in Washington state. At schools that advertise policies for optional exams, you'll get this message: "Welcome to the club."

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At Everett they don't use the ACT and SAT for admission, they use tests in other areas.sonit is used to determine which grade an incoming student will be placed in. Using the SAT or ACT for this purpose is "a budget-neutral solution for students."

(Video) ACT and SAT - Everything You Need to Know About College Admissions Testing

Although high schools cannot pay for one of their graduates to take a college-level test, in many states they do pay for a student to take the SAT or ACT. In fact,25 states require high school students to complete the SAT or ACT.Offer exams during the school day for free. In some states, such asTennesseeyIdaho, taking an entrance exam is incorporated into high school completion requirements.

"Tests are widely used in secondary schools," Franklin says, "so it's only natural that universities would use them, at least until the next, better."

SAT and ACT scores also play a role in the awarding of scholarships at many colleges and universities, particularly merit scholarships that are not based on a student's financial need. State grants such as Bright Futures of Florida also use scores for eligibility.

Many Florida students and parents complained this spring about not being able to retake the test to improve their grades because of the pandemic. On Wednesday,The state issued an emergency orderwhich delayed the scoring deadline until the end of July, but that's howit is unclear whether students will be able to take the test in timeat a new date.

Anchored in student life

Every day 16-year-old Sadie Bograd entered her freshman year of high school, she was greeted by a sign listing the ACT scores required to be accepted to various colleges. She rarely thought about that daily reminder, she says; Test results are almost unconscious at this point.

Standardized tests too. Taking them, says Bograd, who now attends another school, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Ky., has been "a part of my educational experience pretty much since high school."

Bograd says that even his friends who did well on the ACT or SAT don't see the tests as accurate or reliable measures of intelligence, and that the tests often add more stress to their lives.


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She's an aspiring senior, so she gets a flood of college stuff in her inbox every day. She says that colleges that sent notices of optional testing or advertised flexibility in the admissions process made her notice and reconsider the "feeling" of certain schools: "The optional testing seemed like a sign that they really cared about what they were passing on to the students . and what they achieved".

She hopes that society will also place less emphasis on these tests.

“Among my peers, many of us really care about our standardized scores because we think schools and our teachers really care about our standardized scores,” she says. Beyond college admission or graduation, he says, "If you asked a student if they really want to do well on a standardized test because they think it's an important measure of their intelligence, they probably would." 🇧🇷

But even with optional testing policies, top performers will still submit their scores.

(Video) Test Optional and ACT/SAT Testing: What You Should Know

And because the SAT and ACT are so embedded in high schools, even if colleges and universities continue to downplay them, it won't spell the end of these tests, says Michal Kurlaender, professor of education policy at the University of California. Davis studying college admissions. Plus, he points out, reviews aren't always bad, it's just important to understand how to use them.

“The entrance exams evaluated not only what the children know, but also the opportunities they had access to. They reflect a lot of deep inequalities that we have in our system," she says. "That means that if they are used, they must be used with incredible caution."

For SATs and ACTs, he says, society has escaped with its narrative and inflated its meaning. As an example of collective obsession, he points to the varsity blues scandal. "Achieving some sort of intelligence certificate is strong among young people," she says. At the same time, Kurlaender points to research that a negative message, such as a supposedly low score, can have a powerful impact on students' future school and career decisions. "Students put a lot of pressure on these tests," he says, "and if they don't perform as expected, they can become very demoralized."

Crys Latham sees this in her students in Washington, D.C. "I find it so unfortunate when there is only a small, in my opinion insignificant, factor that goes into a child's decision-making about what their dreams are."

Even without evidence, approvals have fairness issues

in california,where the UC system voted in May to eliminate the SAT and ACTWith approvals in all nine locations, the question now is what will replace them.

Eddie Comeaux, professor of higher education at UC Riverside,chairs a committee focused on approvalsof students across the UC system. “The UC decision really gave us an opportunity to look at, 'What is the role of standardized tests?' " he says. "We hope that any recommendation we make is consistent with the principles of fairness and equity."


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In addition to studying new reviews, it also turned its attention to "readers," the people who rate the app. He says that because they are tasked with extracting information from the context of a student's situation, school, and environment, these people must come from diverse backgrounds and have trained implicit biases.

“There is healthy and growing skepticism about standardized test scores,” says Andrew Ho, an expert on educational testing at Harvard University. "But there is a way that this species can be overrated because of its importance in a selective admissions process."

He says that one of the reasons for standardized tests for college admissions was to try to make fair comparisons. Because, he says, other measures — grades, essays, extracurricular activities — can be unfair too. As pressure on test scores eases and pressure on other measures, such as a GPA or an essay, increases, these new approaches also carry the risk of manipulation and inflation.

“If you see that [universities] are concerned about this, what do we do? Well, we play," Ho explains. "We do everything we can to blow this thing up so it doesn't really reflect what I'm capable of."

Ho says that just because we're rethinking these admissions tests doesn't mean we've eliminated unfairness on pathways to higher education.

(Video) Does Standardized Testing Still Matter in College Admissions?


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