Math test and hand with pencil
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Martin Center’s Leef asks what will replace standardized testing

George Leef of the Martin Center ponders a future with no standardized testing in college admissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic probably won’t kill the SAT, but will no doubt leave it in a badly weakened condition.

Both the SAT (and its close competitor, the ACT) have had to cancel administration of their tests for the last few months and, according to this Washington Post story, universities have decided that they will make their admission decisions without those test scores.

Before COVID-19, support for standardized testing was already eroding and recent developments are sure to cause further slippage.

Undoubtedly, the greatest blow was the decision by the University of California (UC) system to stop relying on standardized tests and develop a new test of its own within five years. One opponent of standardized tests (quoted in this Los Angeles Times piece) declared that this marks “the beginning of the end” for the SAT.

Under the plan, UC schools will be “test optional” for incoming students this year and next. …

… Many who say that the standardized tests are unfair and pose a huge obstacle to a truly equitable admissions system are gleeful. Xueli Wang, for example, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, stated that California’s suspension of standardized testing is “a monumental step” toward “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

What is so bad about using standardized test scores (always in addition to other information about the student) in deciding which applicants to admit?

One argument is that the SAT and ACT are unfair because affluent parents can afford to spend money on coaches and materials that will help their children do better on the tests. There may be a kernel of truth in that argument, but not much more than that. …

… The standardized tests have also been attacked as being culturally unfair, using some questions that students from poor families probably wouldn’t know, such as an analogy where the meaning of “regatta” was crucial. But is that a good reason to abandon the tests? 

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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