Shifting from Standardized: What Covid-Sparked Testing Policies Mean for Students

Jack Limor

Due to COVID, students applying to college have found themselves unable to take standardized tests, primarily the SAT and ACT due to closures. many universities are deciding to turn their COVID test-optional or test-blind policies into long-term ones, but what does that mean for applicants two to three years from now? If there is no way to get a baseline for academic achievement, how do we and colleges weigh earning an A in math at a public school in Nebraska to an A at a private Catholic high school in Mexico to an A at Harvard-Westlake (HW)? Is equality increased or decreased?

Standardization is essential in order to make comparisons, but standardized testing is flawed to begin with. It’s not equally accessible, it’s a disadvantage for students with learning differences, and it only shows how a student did on a single occasion.

In addition, the essays on standardized tests are graded by people not on scantrons, which introduces personal bias and preferences into the scoring. Thankfully, according to the College Board, the SAT has recently suspended the essay portion of the exam and is looking at eliminating subject tests as well. While the essay should clearly not be included, the value of testing students across the world in math and English is important in the American college application process, and this should not be optional once the pandemic ends.

Math and English are important indicators of college readiness but also about “academic proficiency” and can provide important information about the rigor of the students’ schools. This data is immense and the SAT and ACT should analyze this data and make information public because this can also help schools receive bigger budgets from the government or update their curriculums. If an A at HW in math is harder to earn than an A at other schools, colleges need to know this and standardized test scores can quantify this. Furthermore, if a B at HW prepares students to achieve equally as an A from other schools, this should be factored into admissions decisions.

To improve upon the standardized tests, students should be required to take one SAT or ACT every year of high school and should submit an average and all of the scores instead of a superscore or single highest score. This can help show progress or upwards trends that are more important and informational than a single good day or a single bad day.

In conclusion, standardized testing should not be eliminated completely in contrast to the changes colleges seem to be making in their policies because it will help improve education systems and the college admissions process for students exposed to a variety of academic challenges.