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Elite Schools Hit Reverse on Abolishing SAT Requirement

Posted on Thursday, February 29, 2024
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by Andrew Shirley
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AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Shirley

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Just a few years after thousands of colleges – including all eight Ivy League schools – dropped requirements that students submit a standardized test score with their application, many are now reversing course. While college administrators initially cited “equity” as a reason for dropping the requirement, they are now attempting to rewrite history by claiming that the change was only a temporary measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On February 22, Yale became the latest university to reinstate a requirement that students submit a score for either the SAT or ACT as part of their application following the fall 2024 application window. In so doing, Yale follows Dartmouth, which became the first Ivy League school to reverse its “test-optional” policy in early February.

More than 2,000 universities currently have either test-optional or test-free policies, a number that skyrocketed during the early days of the pandemic. That figure includes elite schools outside the Ivies such as Williams College and CalTech, along with the University of California system, which enrolls more than 250,000 students each year. In total, 85 percent of the top 100 liberal arts colleges as ranked by U.S. News and World Report did not require a standardized test score for the 2021 admissions cycle.

Now the opposite trend of reinstating testing requirements appears to be gaining steam. According to a 2023 Kaplan survey cited by Axios, “14 percent of admissions officers in 2023 at 200 top schools with test-optional policies were considering requiring applicants to submit standardized test scores.” Along with Yale and Dartmouth, M.I.T. began requiring test scores again in 2022.

As schools begin to rethink their decision to drop SAT and ACT requirements, many administrators are now suggesting that the policy was just a result of pandemic lockdowns. In its statement announcing the reinstatement of its testing requirement, for instance, M.I.T. stated that it “suspended our testing requirement due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic” and that “the availability of vaccines for adolescents⁠ has reduced the health risks of in-person educational activities.”

However, when schools initially dropped testing requirements back in 2020, administrators focused far more on “equity” in their reasoning than any concerns about COVID-19. When the University of California Board of Regents scrapped SAT requirements in 2020, one regent declared flatly, “I believe the test is racist.”

As higher education reporter David Leonhardt succinctly put it in a piece for The New York Times, “Colleges described the move [to eliminate testing requirements] as temporary, but nearly all have since stuck to a test-optional policy. It reflects a backlash against standardized tests that began long before the pandemic, and many people have hailed the change as a victory for equity in higher education.”

For decades, liberals have been pushing the idea that standardized tests discriminate against minority students. One of the most vocal advocates for the elimination of testing requirements is the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teacher’s union in the country. In March 2021, NEA published an article entitled, “The Racist Beginnings of Standardized Testing.” In it, they claimed that standardized tests “have been instruments of racism and a biased system.”

The piece also quoted prominent Critical Race Theorist Ibram X Kendi, who alleged that “standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black and Brown minds and legally exclude their bodies from prestigious schools.”

However, a growing body of research suggests that the exact opposite is the case, and that standardized testing is actually one of the most powerful tools available to minority and low-income students to earn admission to elite schools.

According to a study commissioned by Dartmouth to examine the effects of its test-optional admissions policy, which was released on February 5, standardized testing “is a strong predictor of academic success at Dartmouth for all subgroups” and is “an especially valuable tool to identify high-achieving applicants from low and middle-income backgrounds; who are first-generation college-bound; as well as students from urban and rural backgrounds.”

Specifically, the Dartmouth study mentioned that, without test scores, the school places more weight on “other factors,” such as strong extracurriculars and involvement in school organizations and volunteering – opportunities that are more widely available to affluent and white students.

In other words, the voices pushing for the abolition of standardized testing requirements under the guise of helping minority and low-income students are actually doing those students a disservice.

In explaining its reasoning for reinstating testing requirements, M.I.T. likewise said that test scores “help us identify academically prepared, socioeconomically disadvantaged students who could not otherwise demonstrate readiness⁠ because they do not attend schools that offer advanced coursework, cannot afford expensive enrichment opportunities, cannot expect lengthy letters of recommendation from their overburdened teachers, or are otherwise hampered by educational inequalities.”

Nonetheless, even as some schools reverse course, others are refusing to budge. Columbia has said that its test-optional policy is permanent, while Harvard, Cornell, and Princeton have announced extensions on their policies.

Americans’ trust in higher education is already at a historic low. A deepening divide over the usefulness of standardized testing is unlikely to improve these numbers – with minority and low-income students suffering the most as a result.

Andrew Shirley is a veteran speechwriter and AMAC Newsline columnist. His commentary can be found on X at @AA_Shirley.

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Patriot Will
Patriot Will
2 months ago

All schools should go back to counting the SAT’s. They should want the most qualified students and not be so concerned with artificially propping up the minorities. Meritocracy. not Equity. is how all Americans have a chance of getting ahead. The USA should be the land of opportunity, achievement, and hard work. All Americans deserve to be treated with respect and fairness. Thus, our citizens win and our country wins.

zoe frost
zoe frost
2 months ago

SAT and ACT requirements were branded as raciiist, and favoring a group (of people they despise) by the traitors hell bent on dumbing down…for a stupid, thus compliant population. How else can Commie/Globalist Demonrats/and their BFF RINOs get their wealth/power/control totalitarian tyranny hell on earth for anyone not in their club? It’s bamboozle useful idiots by propaganda and indoctrination…until our freedoms and opportunities Constitutional Republic is but a memory, and the expletives have their boots firmly on our necks. Reinstating SAT/ACT requirements is a small step, myriad more are needed, ASAP.

MBares
MBares
2 months ago

It’s just the opposite of racism! So what you’re saying is [ BLACK & BROWN ] individuals are not smart enough to pass these tests! To me this seems like these so called DEI colleges are basically saying that black and brown skinned people are idiots! What an insult! Don’t we want the most qualified people in our work force? Who cares what color your skin is ! Stop the nonsense!

anna hubert
anna hubert
2 months ago

Did they finally realized that sieve for the brain will retain nothing but dregs?

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