BY: LANG HANLEY

Just months ago, the SAT and ACT seemed to be staples of the American educational system, but with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, these two college admission tests are now at the center of controversy and uncertainty. 

Many questions have arisen about the fairness and safety of these tests being included in the admissions process. At test-optional colleges will students who choose to submit scores be favored? Is in-person testing safe and fair for all? If the SATs have to be cancelled will it be fair to consider utilizing scores? The questions are innumerable. 

Given the uncertainty surrounding the topic, there seems to be no perfect approach as to how colleges should be handling the situation. More than 60% of U.S. schools are test optional and 57 schools are not considering scores at all in the admissions process, also known as being “test blind” (USA Today).

Amid this uncertainty, a recent court ruling could end up providing some clarity. On September 1st, a judge ruled that the University of California (UC) system can no longer consider test scores in the admissions process. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman disagreed with UC Attorney’s claim that submitting tests “can only help and never hurt an applicant” instead ruling that the tests are “treated as a plus factor” and that “students with disabilities [will] face greater barriers.” Given this reasoning, Seligman issued a preliminary injunction to eliminate the consideration of SAT and ACT scores in the UC admissions process. While it may just be one court case, it is interesting to see how other schools react to this ruling and whether similar cases and rulings will arise. UC will be test optional for fall 2021 and 2022 enrollment and then move to test blind enrollment 2023 and 2024.

Tattler recently conducted a survey on the standing of the SAT and ACT among B-CC’s senior class. The survey gathered student test participation data from 116 students, roughly 20% of the 2021 class. It also asked students for their opinions on whether or not schools should be accepting test scores, and whether students will or will not be submitting their scores. For both the ACT and SAT a majority of students said they did not take the tests before school closed in early March. Similarly, a majority of students also reported that they have not taken either test since the closing. In addition the survey asked students if they plan on taking either test moving forward and a strong majority of students said they do not, 76% for the SAT and 85% for the ACT. 

Based on the survey responses, students who have taken the test seem divided on whether or not they’ll submit their scores. Students satisfied with their scores mainly said they do plan on submitting and one student reasoned that “even though colleges have issued statements saying they are test optional… [i’m] still going to try to submit anything that can possibly give me a leg up in the admissions process.” On the other hand, many students who are not submitting scores shared similar reasoning. Many students shared they no longer feel the need to submit their scores due to the amount of schools that have gone test optional. Several students also shared their disappointment with the pandemic’s effects on their test scores. One student shared they won’t be submitting their score because they “feel that it is not reflected properly because I was only able to take it once and wasn’t able to again because they continuously got cancelled” and another shared that they “really wish I could retake it in a safe environment but I can’t.” 

The survey also revealed a definite division in student opinions on whether schools should be accepting scores, with only a slight majority of students saying yes. Most students who said yes reasoned that it would be unfair not to take scores because it would discount the hard work of students. However, many of them also mentioned that scores should not be as much of a factor as previous years due to the pandemic. There was common reasoning among the students who said no as well. Many raised points on the equity of standardized testing in general with one student calling the tests “another process of the college application system that gives rich kids the advantage.” Others brought up points on how students may feel unsafe taking the tests at this point and also general statements on how accurate standardized testing really is of a students intellect: “one could be an A plus student in the classroom but be unsuccessful when it comes to taking a 3-4 hour test and get a score that does not truly represent how educated they are.” 

Throughout the responses most students on either side acknowledged the points of the others, conveying how at these times of uncertainty, many are still formulating their opinions on what is an important and polarizing topic.

Currently, there is not much clarity as to how students and schools should be handling standardized testing. There remains a plethora of opinions on the fairness and safety of these tests and over the course of the next few months, colleges and universities will have to look into how different factors such as wealth, disabilities, resource access, and more factor into their final decisions. Only time will tell what short and long-term changes will come with this unique and unsolved situation.