SAT, ACT testing should remain optional post-pandemic

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Emma Newman staff writer

The SAT and ACT tests are biased measuring tools that work against less affluent students and students of color, and therefore should not be required on college applications.

Results from the SATs and ACTs have consistently been higher among rich, white and Asian students since the tests’ introduction. Standardized testing was specifically popularised by eugenists to prove that white students were intellectually superior to black students, according to the National Education Association’s article “The Racist Beginnings of Standardized Testing.”  

Eugenists advocated for these exams because they have resulted in higher scores among white and Asian students than Hispanic or black students. For example, in 2020, the average white student scored a 547 on the math SAT, while the average black student scored a 478. 

There is an obvious explanation for this gap. Historically, areas populated by people of color contain weaker educational systems than white areas. Poorer families, who are often people of color, cannot afford SAT tutors like many wealthy families utilize. These tutors make and deliver on promises of improved scores. Therefore, people without access to them are at a disadvantage. 

This gap has become more apparent recently, as cheating scandals have shocked the nation. As stated by The New York Times’s article “Is the College Cheating Scandal the ‘Final Straw’ for Standardized Test?” the scandals showed that some white, well-off parents have bribed SAT proctors, hired stand-ins for the test and used psychologists to get their children extra time on the SATs. 

Some might argue that while cheating and a white-leaning bias is present in the SAT-ACT system, it is also an issue with grades. White students hire tutors for classes as well as for standardized tests, which makes it hard to spot the difference between grades and scores. But there is one – and it’s glaring. 

While students who attend more academic, white high schools, often have more opportunities for academic success, they also usually have more rigorous courseloads and more challenging teachers. Colleges examine varying curriculum offerings in schools and compare student success not just with random students, but with students in their school. There is no such caveat for standardized testing. 

Before 2020, colleges could use the excuse that the SAT-ACT system was the status quo that they should stick to. This year, however, that stopped being valid, as colleges stopped being test-required and became test-optional. It is no longer unprecedented to make test-optional policies permanent. 

This pandemic has been terrible for most, but in this case, colleges have an opportunity to get something positive from COVID-19. They should make testing optional – and accept a more diverse, well-rounded group of students as a result. 

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