Features

What does COVID mean for the SATs?

By Zohra Ahsan

Staff Writer

For years, colleges and universities have been using the SATs to test high school students on their range of educational ability. With the current pandemic, the education system has shifted dramatically, with schools all over the country closing, reopening, and trying to find effective ways to keep their students learning, while still maintaining health procedures. Students in WW-P have endured many changes due to the new safety rules and the new virtual/hybrid learning process. Many upperclassmen are especially concerned about certain necessities for their future college applications, especially the SATs.  

How are students taking the SATs this year?

In some areas, high school students are still able to take the SATs as long as students and testing centers are following the specific health guidelines for COVID-19, such as socially distancing, wearing a mask, and maintaining a certain capacity of people. Testing centers have also provided hygienic necessities such as gloves and hand sanitizer, giving students a sense of safety. 

In many areas, such as WW-P, testing has been canceled due to safety concerns. Testing centers have faced many situations in which they had to close and cancel their sessions last minute. The WW-P students recognize that these centers are doing all they can to be informative, but the sudden changes have brought inevitable frustration nonetheless. “There definitely should be some changes in promptness and clarity; test centers shouldn’t even offer test dates if they aren’t confident that they won’t cancel,” a senior at North expresses. In relation to the College Board’s involvement with test cancellations, many students have claimed they have lacked “user-friendly” services such as offering flexible testing dates and attending to students’ concerns. Testing centers are quick to notify the College Board of any test cancellations, but it has been said that there is no guarantee they will proceed to directly inform the students of any scheduling changes. 

How is COVID-19 affecting the process of standardized testing?

Due to the current pandemic, the future of the SAT is being threatened. The on-going quarantine has opened up a window of inspection for the real purpose of SAT scores in college applications. As of right now, since many people are uncomfortable going out to attend test sessions, plenty of colleges have turned the requirement of standardized test scores into an optional choice or have gone “test-blind”. 

The University of California (UC) has some more futuristically driven plans regarding the standardized testing requirement. For the fall of 2021 & 2022, the college has declared that they are staying test-optional like many other schools. For 2023 & 2024, UC has claimed that testing scores may be looked at for the purpose of certain courses and other procedures, but they will be terminated from the applications for good.

In the meantime, the University of California Board of Regents wishes to create a newer and more relevant standardized test for the future students of California. In order to do this, they are suspending the SAT and ACT tests until 2024. By then, if they are unable to come up with something effective, they will abolish the standardized testing requirements for the state. “I see our role as fiduciaries and stewards of the public good and this proposal before us is an incredible step in the right direction.” says UC Board of Regents chairman John A. Perez. The Board of Regents is hoping to use its influential position in the educational world as a path for other colleges and universities to follow. 

The controversy with the SAT & standardized testing

Even beyond the context of the pandemic, the SAT has been the subject of conflict. “I think to a certain extent it’s ineffective as it tests a very specific set of skills,” Akshat Agarwal, a Junior from North, voices. Many say that only wealthy and typically white students–those who can afford SAT prep–tend to score higher on the test regardless of their actual GPA consistency. Logically, families with higher income rates are more likely to put their kids in test prep simply because they can afford to do so, allowing for their children to have more knowledge on how to strategically take the test. Other students from low income families tend to score lower even if they have an elevated GPA as they take the test to the best of their ability without access to the same resources to prepare. Numerous states additionally require families to pay a significant price just to have their child participate in the test itself, defeating the purpose of why the test was used for students in the first place: to grow the amount of kids who are able to attend reputable colleges, regardless of their socioeconomic status. 

For this reason the College Board wishes to give all students more opportunities to get assistance and test prep. Some ways they have done this is by providing materials through the College Board and Khan Academy to help students stay intact with their test taking skills. 

“Ultimately I don’t think the SAT should play as much of a role as it currently does in the application process.” Agarwal states. Unlike many other countries, the United States education system tends to focus on the overall character and expression of the students applying to colleges. Due to this ideology, Agarwal agrees that the SAT plays a “negating” role in the application process, as it strictly grades individuals on their test taking ability on a particular day rather than contributing to their overall growth throughout the four years of high school. When considering how much colleges care about other extracurricular activities such as clubs and community service Agarwal says, “it [the SATs] should be a lot less important in the whole process than things that matter much more over the whole period of the four years.” 

Generally, many acknowledge this theory and think the standardized testing aspect of applying should be eliminated. Without focusing on test scores, colleges will be more engaged with their future students and their personal identities through the acceptance process. This gives more perspective regarding a student’s unique characteristics and potential, rather than judging their work ethics based off of a series of numbers. Angel Perez, the incoming executive of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), indicated in 2015 that getting rid of the standardized testing requirement will assist college campuses to look both economically and racially diverse, as well as “academically elite.”

Contrary to this, test-makers and companies have argued that along with a GPA, test scores will demonstrate a student’s full academic potential. Having students take the test will also allow gifted students to shine from lesser-known schools. Individuals from communities that do not get much attention will be able to use their testing scores to their advantage for potential merit scholarships when applying at colleges. 

This pandemic has forced everyone to view our nation’s education from a new perspective. These opportunities of growth regarding the testing system need to be considered wisely as it is undecided what other issues may arise within the educational society throughout the years. It is now up to the educators of the nation to decide whether the situation will be taken as an opportunity of benefit for coming generations.  

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