Colleges dump online SAT and ACT, fueling anti-testing movement

Source: Politico | May 21, 2020 | Bianca Quilantan

The University of California system is the latest, voting Thursday to suspend the test mandate through 2024.

The coronavirus has conquered even the SAT.

Colleges uneasy about standardized tests taken online from home this fall are dropping their requirements for the exams, fueling a movement to eliminate the high-stakes tests from admissions decisions altogether.

The latest was the huge University of California system, where regents voted Thursday to suspend the SAT and ACT mandate through 2024 as the school attempts to develop its own test. Standardized admissions exams will be completely eliminated in 2025 in the elite public system that enrolls 291,000 students.

UC joins some 80 colleges and universities that have announced just this year they will not require standardized test scores this fall, either permanently or temporarily, as the testmakers prepare for online exams if high schools remain closed. Cornell University suspended its test requirement for fall 2021 and so have all public universities in Oregon, and colleges including Washington and Lee University, Davidson College, Fordham University, Vassar College and Tufts University. Altogether, more than 1,200 schools say applicants can skip the tests, including those who made the move before the pandemic.

The shift away from standardized tests has produced fierce pushback from the testmakers, who hold a multimillion-dollar dominance in the admissions process, and pleas to colleges to hang on to the exams. It means more colleges could base admissions on students’ GPA, high school courses and personal essays, and ease what advocates see as longtime barriers for low-income and first-generation applicants. But the heads of the ACT and SAT warn an emphasis on GPAs could lead to grade inflation in well-to-do high schools, where parents can lobby teachers for better marks.

Testmakers insist online exams will be secure, but colleges and counselors fear widespread cheating, a year after the “Varsity Blues” scandal revealed wealthy parents paid to boost their kids’ scores. Technical glitches plagued some online Advanced Placement exams last week and parents and students have sued challenging the results.

The National Association for College Admissions Counseling has emerged as a prominent critic of the push for online ACT and SAT tests. “It was the last straw,” said Jayne Fonash, president of the group of counselors who advise college applicants.

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