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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Sayonara standardized tests

A broken pencil sits atop a scantron sheet. // Josh Davi
A broken pencil sits atop a scantron sheet. // Josh Davi

It’s time to take ACT-ion and tell standardized tests it’s time they SAT this one out.

By Kaleigh Carroll

If you want to give a high schooler a good scare this Halloween, then just utter three letters: SAT. 

Or if you’re feeling particularly malicious: ACT. 

These standardized tests and the scores they produce have long been a staple of the college admissions process and a source of anxiety for high school graduates. But now, major universities are rethinking the value of these test scores.

Recently, the University of Washington announced it would extend its temporary removal of standardized testing scores during the admissions process beyond the original fall 2021 expiration date. Students applying to UW will no longer be required report their SAT/ACT scores.

“Careful analysis and research showed that standardized testing did not add meaningfully to the prediction of student success that our holistic admission process already provides,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce in a press release. 

UW is not alone in their decision; over 1,000 colleges across the U.S. have adopted permanent policies that do not require students to report standardized test scores when applying. 

Yet, Western is not among them.

Western temporarily suspended the standardized test score submission requirement for students applying to be admitted in 2021, but a final decision on test score requirements has not been made, according to the admissions website.

This lack of a decision comes after a letter from the Associated Students Executive Board to President Sabah Randhawa which argued in favor of permanently removing the score reporting requirement. 

The letter cites the racial bias of standardized tests and the prohibitive cost of the SAT and ACT as reasons it should no longer be required in the admissions process. 

Studies like “Defining Access: How Test-Optional Works” show how SAT scores are not indicative of college students’ GPA or their likelihood of graduating in four years. 

When the study compared the SAT scores and cumulative GPAs of 17,128 students from 13 different universities who did and did not submit test scores, they found SAT scores were a poor indicator of students’ GPA. 

While non-submitters averaged 135 points less on their SAT than their submitter counterparts, their GPAs were only .17 lower than submitters. 

Additionally, the non-submitter four-year graduation rate of 79% was 2.6% higher than the submitter rate of 76.4%.

The financial burden of standardized tests must also be taken into account. In 2019-2020, the SAT cost $49.50 or $64.50 if taken with the essay portion, and the ACT cost $55 or $70 with the writing portion.

Without financial support, the price of these tests can be a significant burden to students, especially, when it’s recommended they take them multiple times.

Additionally, the “Defining Access” study also found a “strong correlation” between students’ SAT scores and family wealth by comparing expected family college contributions to SAT scores. The more money a family planned to provide their student with, the higher they scored on the test. 

Not only are standardized tests like the SAT and ACT not indicative of student performance, but it has been argued the tests also have a racial bias that often hurts minority performance.

The 2019 SAT score data shows that only Asian and white students performed above the average score. Black and Hispanic students scored 124 and 82 points below the average, respectively. ACT scores collected between 2000-2018 paint a similarly troubling picture, with the average Black student scoring 3.98 points below the national average. The average white student scored 1.26 points above it.

By removing this barrier, schools can increase diversity while still maintaining their academic prestige. The University of Chicago and Wake Forest University are examples of exactly that

The University of Chicago, which implemented a non-submission policy in 2018, saw a 20% increase in low-income and first-generation enrollment according to their website. 

In the 10 years since Wake Forest University announced its non-submission policy, they’ve seen ethnic diversity in their undergraduate population increase by 68% from 2008 to 2018 with no significant academic achievement changes, as reported on their website.

Despite these statistics, there are still many more colleges that require standardized test scores during the admissions process, and Western is one of them.  

The AS, the experiences of other universities and the evidence all support non-submission policies in college admissions, so it’s time Western does the same. 

What do you think? The Front accepts letters to the editor (max. 250 words) and guest columns (max.400 words) on subjects of interest to our community. Please submit your ideas, along with a phone number and email address, to eic.westernfrontonline@gmail.com.

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