Few high school students, it seems, will miss the anxiety that comes with prepping for multiple attempts at the ACT or SAT exam.
But remember, we live in strange times. In California, students and parents still stress about getting an opportunity to take these standardized exams, even though they’ve become optional for admittance to many colleges and universities. “We have created such a testing culture among the kids. To tell them all of a sudden that the tests don’t matter, it’s a hard one for them to swallow,” one school counselor in California told Edsource.org.
Universities across the country, including Northwest Missouri State and Southeast Missouri State, are waiving the ACT or SAT requirement for general college admission.
These schools made a reasonable determination that the exams are no longer as equitable because too many testing dates were cancelled due to the coronavirus. At Northwest and other universities, the tests are still required for certain scholarships and for applicants who were home-schooled or graduated from non-accredited high schools.
Across the nation, widespread school shutdowns may have broader implications for college preparation. The ACT Center for Equity in Learning released a survey this month that showed that 37% of students said school closings will affect their academic preparedness a great deal, and another 51% said their own academics suffered “somewhat.”
The ACT Center noted that the survey respondents were likely among the most motivated students who had registered for a college entrance exam. This implies that students on the margins, especially if they have unreliable internet access, fell even further behind.
One unintended consequence of the coronavirus is the way that it highlights inequities in education. Those enjoying better internet connections, better schools or access to tutors seemingly reap the benefits when it comes time to apply to colleges.
Long term, these issues demand a response, but policymakers should resist the urge to degrade initiative and rigor in the name of fairness and opportunity.
Some would wish to abolish the ACT or SAT as an element of college admission, citing these exams as biased against minorities or students from low-income neighborhoods. These critics get their wish for a year, and it would come as little surprise if some pushed for a more permanent move to eliminate standardized testing from the admissions process.
But many students still look to take this exam because it offers at least a hint of tapping the benefits of a college education based on what you know rather than who you know.
When the dust from the coronavirus finally settles, these tests still have a place for aspiring college students.