SAT and the ACT for College Admissions

Is Testing the Real Problem in College Admissions?

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Posted By

Dodie Carmichael

Published On

March 26, 2021

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If you are diagnosed with an illness, do you blame the blood test, the ultrasound, or the x-ray which brought to light the actual illness? Or do you begin to research the underlying cause and the actions needed to cure the disease? The word disease in its entirety means trouble, discomfort, or distress. Due to the pandemic and the college admission scandals this past year, it has become evident that we have an educational dis-ease and can no longer be ignored. Many believe if we simply scrap the SAT or the ACT and no longer use these in the admission process for higher education, all will be well. It is not that easy and truly ignores the underlying issues we have in education.

Before we scrap any test and maintain the status quo, we need to investigate the cause of the barriers to higher education for so many students. Are tests really the problem or is it something more alarming? Let’s look at the pros and cons to using a standardized tests for college admissions:

What are the pros to using a standardized test for admission into higher education?

  • The SAT and the ACT are aligned with standards and therefore every student is evaluated on the exact same data vs. using grades from different high schools. Grades can be inflated from one school to another or course offerings may vary. Many schools do not offer AP courses to help prepare students for the rigor of college courses.
  • Using a standardized test is objective vs. subjective and therefore unbiased.
  • Same test for every student regardless of geography, socioeconomic status or race.
  • All test questions are evaluated in multiple stages, internally and externally, by a diverse panel of experts to eliminate any biases in content, words or cultural assumptions. Regardless of a student’s background, this helps guarantee that a student with the same ability will have the same probability of success in answering the questions.
  • Merit-based scholarships at many colleges and universities are available for high test scores.

What are the cons to using a standardized test for admission into higher education?

  • There are external factors that influence a student’s education. There are inequities in our schools and affect students' ability to learn and be successful (course offerings, broadband, access to equipment and devices . . . All a result of socioeconomic disparities). 
  • One test should not be the only considering factor in admitting a student into higher education. The whole student needs to be considered.
  • Tests are expensive to take and many students cannot afford to take them multiple times nor may they have the means to get themselves to a testing location.
  • Many families do not have the wealth to hire a private tutor or company to prepare them for the SAT or the ACT. 
  • The pandemic has caused many students in high-poverty communities to fall further behind their peers from wealthier neighborhoods, exacerbating the already long-standing gaps in education.
  • Students with disabilities are often forgotten when it comes to preparing and practicing for the SAT or ACT.

What is the true dis-ase of higher education admissions?

Remember, a test is only exposing the underlying and damaging dis-ease. The SAT, the ACT or any other standardized test reveal the data. As educators, we use data to inform, engage and hopefully create opportunities for students. It should help us make connections that lead to insights and improvements. Based on what we know, we need to discuss the opportunity gaps, inequities and barriers that have been exposed in education beginning in Pre-K and into high school. This is not a test issue and cannot be solved by simply throwing out an exam. As a society, all our students deserve excellence, equity and access to a quality education and this is only achieved when all students receive the resources they need to graduate prepared for success.

How can Horizon Education be a resource for ALL students?

  • Students will practice and be prepared for the SAT or ACT at no cost to the student nor their families. Schools and districts may fund classes for their students.
  • Students with disabilities will practice and be prepared for the SAT or ACT with appropriate accommodations similar to those on the actual test.
  • Students and families will be educated on the waiver system available for financial need to take the SAT or the ACT.
  • Spring and summer SAT and ACT Bootcamps will be made available for all schools and districts to better prepare their students.
  • We help educators measure and analyze growth over time with diagnostic PSAT/SAT or PreACT/ACT aligned assessments. We include detailed score reports and analysis to help schools better assist in meeting every student’s needs.

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