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Are America’s Standardized Tests Facing an Uncertain Future?



Since the early 19th century, America has designed and welcomed every kind of standardized testing into their educational models. Tests of achievement have always been a part of school experience. Eventually, it became the deciding factor that sets the students’ academic future as well.

However, in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, things have been taking a swift turn. In June 2020, a number of universities, including Harvard, Stanford, and PennState, announced that they are taking steps to make the SAT and ACT scores optional for college admissions.

What does this mean for high school students, or more importantly, will this change the U.S. educational system as we know it?

A System Based on Standardized Tests

High school is only the beginning of a student’s career in standardized tests. Several colleges and specializations require these test scores in order to even be eligible for admission. Moreover, the U.S. college rankings rely heavily on test scores to arrive at the acceptance rates.  Recruiters, on the other hand, have been peeking at the scores to find potential hires.

In fact, a whole industry of standardized tests, from training institutions, instructors, and infrastructure, thrives on this system.

Because of the pandemic, schools are facing unprecedented budget cutbacks, and testing is indeed an expensive affair. Moreover, many teachers agree that they don’t need standardized tests to assess their students. With colleges willing to look past the scores, the chances are that standardized tests will become a means to add extra credit to the application files.

Experts say that the test-optional movement has been long coming. With the misuse of tests and college admission scandals, colleges have been looking for other means of selecting their future students.

In effect, the pandemic gave the final push that colleges needed to take a strong stand in eliminating aspects that are no longer necessary for imparting effective and equal educational opportunities. That said, colleges say that this still is an experimental stage, to determine how the admission processes would do without them.

What About The Future?

2020 is witnessing some of the most significant changes in the system we have built. Education has seen the most strides, with the fundamental notions of an adequate measure of student achievement being questioned. It looks like the ground was not that strong for this argument.

The case might be different for tests that get professionals their licenses to practice. Most of the top 15 law schools in the U.S. have a bar exam pass rate above 90 percent, which is a reflection on the schools as well as the students. These tests, taken after the completion of the course, might be a better tool of analysis for rankings rather than entrance examinations.

Of course, there is a myriad of other concerns, including the likely collapse of an industry that supports thousands of people’s livelihoods. However, there is time to develop feasible solutions that could be in the best interest of both the students and instructors. Policy makers and educational investors have to work hand in hand to offer aid for a system that was developed as a result of a system established by them.

The combination of pandemic and changing public perceptiveness might have been the fuel for the changes. We might be seeing a new era that has better and efficient assessment tools.

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