Updated: Aug 19, 2021
Test optional policies are not the answer to racial diversity on college campuses. Wow, isn’t that a loaded statement? I will even bet that some people stopped reading this article because they are angry that someone has the audacity to say something like this. Many test-optional studies have been conducted that purport to show the opposite. They show that underrepresented student applications rise, admissions increase, and graduation rates for these students are comparable to those who submit scores. Case closed, right? Couldn’t be further from the truth. People who are adamant about getting rid of testing will ignore mounds of evidence to make sure that their point is made. Even these valid points will be twisted to say things that they couldn’t ever possibly say. When will we stop talking at each other and start doing what is best for students in this country?
Let’s deal with these arguments one at a time. Testing stops colleges from being diverse. How exactly? A test is a neutral vehicle that gives colleges a snapshot of the abilities of the students applying to their schools. It is their decision how they will use this data. The fact that colleges have used this data as a bar to the door of their institutions does not make the test a racist test. Clearly, people who have access to more money, better schools, more preparation, etc., will do better on a test than those who are lacking the same. What would you expect? If the test then gives you those exact results, the problem is not the test. The problem is the way schools use the test. There are many ways that test scores could be used to compare students from different measured groups that would give better, more diverse, answers to schools. However, no one wants to look for those. The people who created this horrible system, who perpetrated this crime against all people of color for years, will now look for their out. It wasn’t us; they will say, it was the test. The test that every study says produces accurate results, gives colleges important data, and predicts first-year success better than grades.
There has been nothing stopping Harvard from accepting any student they wanted to, regardless of their SAT/ACT score. Let me say that again. There is no federal or state law that I am aware of that disallows Harvard from accepting a student regardless of their SAT/ACT score. The policies are set by the school. That is why they can decide to go test-optional or drop the requirement altogether. But what about the student who was able to show how much promise she has by succeeding on the test despite low grades? Diverse measurements are important. When we have these arguments, the thought is that getting rid of testing will ease the pressure of these tests. But what about the pressure of grades once the tests are gone? The achievers now will put pressure on every little grade point and the relationships between students and teachers will become more strained than ever. What about that tough teacher who you loved but believed that students do not get A’s? They have to earn them and most don’t. Now, that teacher is going to be reviled and challenged and the nature of the job will change drastically. The teacher who doesn’t care and gives out A’s like candy will be more valued. The kids who need to earn grades in order to play sports in college now will be sure that their grade point averages meet the requirements. While the Fair Test’s of the world argue that more diverse students are applying to Wesleyan and North Carolina, as always, the students at the top will benefit while the vast majority of students will suffer because of these decisions. If we stop testing and, do not know where to deploy our assets, the schools that have more will continue to flourish and the schools that struggle will continue to do so. There will be more people applying to schools of all types. That does not mean that they should be applying there. A person may now feel empowered to apply to Harvard if there is no testing requirement, however, it does not mean the person should go to school there.
Finally, the idea that non-submitters of test scores graduate at an equal rate to submitters shows nothing. What would their scores have been if they submitted? That is not tested for because people do not want to know the answer. The truth is testing is better as a predictor than grades. Use it as a piece of the puzzle. Some do well on testing. A bell curve means that half the United States does well. Fix the curve to measure the information that you want to find out. Compare students who have taken college prep courses. Compare school data. Compare economic data. Then force schools to make decisions based on real things rather than fake essays written by college counselors.