Growing number of colleges change admissions policy

“The joy of writing exams in the gym.”
“Exams 6” by charbeck10 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

American schooling has long been defined by its distinct stepping stones which eventually lead students to and through higher education. In high school, heightened anxiety from academically minded students is common in the face of necessary and rigorous standardized testing.  Each student is told that if they want to attend college then they must take the ACT or the SAT and manage to do well on these tests.

This philosophy had been relatively uncontested, and the longer it was, the more this practice of teaching to the test became prevalent. Teachers, parents and students needed to work together to prepare for a test that would place a student on a continuum along with each of their classmates, effectively ranking student competency in specific subject areas. The natural question that arises out of this practice is why, specifically in regard to the importance of standardized tests being the ultimate tool for evaluating students.

The easy answer to this question involves seeing standardized tests as a method to measure the effect of education on student educational growth.

“Standardized tests are a spotlight that helps education leaders see what effect schools are having on students,” according to Education Post.

This strategy has been objectively verified throughout the United States education system, but more concerns complicate this objectivity. 

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing argues that these tests disproportionately disadvantage people of color with the explosion of high stakes testing stating

“Young people of color, particularly those from low-income families, have suffered the most as the explosion of high-stakes standardized testing in U.S. public education has undermined equity and school quality.”

As a result of growing criticisms of the efficacy of standardized testing, colleges and universities are alleviating the standards for testing that typically preclude entry into higher education. The reasoning for this move is generally to offset the equity imbalances inherent in our school educational system. If higher education can open their arms to more students, that decreases the stakes which we associate with high stakes testing. 

This is also in light of recent federal investigations into the elitism that seems to dominate higher education culture. As Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss notes, “The issue of elitism in college admissions was underscored this year by Operation Varsity Blues, a federal investigation into admissions fraud that resulted in the indictments of dozens of people, including wealthy parents and college coaches caught in schemes to create false records to secure admission to top schools.”

If students did not do well on standardized tests but had resources to create access for themselves to higher education, this demonstrates a dangerous imbalance of equity within our general education system. 

As colleges and universities are faced with this reality, more and more are ridding themselves of these testing requirements at historic rates. 

“Every 10 days, on average, another university makes these tests optional for admission. Forty-one schools have jettisoned this requirement in the last year, the largest number ever,” according to The Hechinger Report

This represents a shift away from the idea that standardized testing grades dictate a student’s educational profile when applying to college. Rather than viewing a student based on a number derived from a set of tests that may or may not be geared toward how a particular student learns best, schools are focused on looking at a more holistic view of a student when determining whether to extend an offer of admission.

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