Whitney Young Students Take the SAT Amidst Test Optional Admissions

Hello, Dolphins! Welcome back to another year! Only this time it’s virtual. The 2020-2021 school year is lining up to be like no other as students, teachers, and faculty adjust to all the changes that COVID-19 has brought. Every class has things they look forward to, but none quite as much as the seniors. The class of 2021 is arguably the most affected by this pandemic as their last homecoming, prom, and Senior Blackout were unceremoniously ripped from them. One thing that the seniors weren’t going to miss though, was the ever-dreaded standardized testing, such as the ACT and SAT. However, the school surprised students by continuing to administer the exam on September 23, labeling it a graduation requirement.

As some of our readers may or may not know, due to last school year’s quarantine, and the ever-present risk of infection, students around the country have limited to no access to these exams. Subsequently, many institutions of learning have gone “test-optional” or “test-blind,” meaning that some schools will either not require standardized test scores or will simply not even look at scores if students choose to submit them, accommodating hopeful students who otherwise would have been ineligible to apply. 


Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the standardized testing industry was still under scrutiny; due to the fact that it is a for-profit industry that gives an unfair advantage to wealthier students who can pay for tutors, more frequent testing, and other out of school advantages that give a disproportional advantage over the majority of students. The discussion of the validity of these tests reached a peak in the spring of this year, with students and advocacy groups calling for the permanent removal of the tests. 


Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director of FairTest the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which “works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, teachers, and schools is fair, open, valid, and educationally beneficial”, believes that this moment could possibly persuade them to adopt such policies permanently. Schaeffer told CNN, “Making testing optional is a win-win for both the students and admission offices, schools get more applicants and a more diverse pool of applicants, so it’s a win for them. And on the student side, the opportunity to be evaluated by more than a score is very appealing.” These arguments are even more persuasive when looking at the socioeconomic differences between applicants. According to a 2015 analysis by Inside Higher Ed, the lowest average scores for each part of the SAT came from students with less than $20,000 in family income. The highest scores came from those with more than $200,000 in family income; And when it comes to race, “Hispanic and African-American students from comparable socioeconomic families scored lower than their Asian-American and White peers…” 


Despite these findings and ever-mounting public support, both College Board and ACT Inc., the companies responsible for the tests respectively, stand by their exams. Ed Colby, who is a spokesman for ACT, told CNN “ACT scores are highly predictive of success in college,” Colby said further, “They provide colleges with a standardized measure of academic readiness that can be used to compare students from different schools, districts, and states on a level playing field, something that no other admission factor can provide.”


As the situation continues to develop, I asked some of our senior Dolphins how they felt about having to take the exam once again, despite about two-thirds of schools being test-optional this year. Nia Lambert, ’21 says “College Board and CPS don’t seem to be looking out for the students, but rather for the profit.” Madison Tate, also the class of ‘21 said “I just don’t really understand why it’s still a [CPS]  graduation requirement. Most college admissions officials are themselves saying ‘It’s not worth it! We won’t look at your scores!’ Yet students are still being made to put their family and their family’s safety at risk, just to take the test.” Alternatively, Claire Macellaio had a different perspective. “I am glad that we have to take the SAT because I personally don’t have any standardized test scores to submit to colleges. I’m happy because I kept getting my ACT and SAT dates canceled, so it’s nice that we get this one for free, especially for people who couldn’t afford it. Even though colleges are test-optional, it’s good that we can take it and have the score if we want to use it as extra help in our applications.”


While the student opinion on the test is mixed right now, who’s to say what could happen in the future? It’s possible that the last generation of ACT and SAT test-takers is right around the corner, but for the time being, what do you think? The Beacon would love to hear your comment! Leave one below at our WYDubTV socials.


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