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A Few Thoughts About Testing and COVID-19


News has just broken that College Board has decided to cancel the June SAT, and many people believe that ACT will follow suit.  Just a few thoughts:

  • Who cares?  ACT and College Board are private companies who sell a suspect service to colleges, which colleges force students to pay for, via real costs (money) and opportunity costs (time, lost instruction).  Tests are not necessary to make good admissions decisions at 95% of colleges and universities; and, they’re probably not necessary at the other 5%, either.  And the tests have horrible, racist histories that–while not overtly present today–are still visible if you look hard enough.
  • I’ve spoken to scores, if not hundreds, of admissions people over the years who have wanted to kill the testing requirement, but have encountered obstacles from people who like tests, or, in many instances, people whose identity is still wrapped up in their SAT score and what it allowed them to accomplish.  Now’s the time: Never waste a good crisis.
  • A few stalwarts appear to be actively holding onto the testing requirement (I won’t name names, but you can guess who they are).  There is no greater example of how these places have become bastions of wealth and privilege more than their stubborn refusal to acknowledge that limited testing is going to further disadvantage those who face the greatest struggle.  It may be time to get out the pitchforks.
  • College Board has hinted that they will deliver an SAT administered at home.  The company that has had a less-than-sterling record of test security in the last decade because it couldn’t keep reused tests off of Reddit now wants us to say, “Sure, we trust you to ensure the test is still valuable.”  What the test prep industry was to the last decade, the test cheating industry will become to the next.  And we know who’ll have the advantage there, too.  Unless, of course, the test is no longer important. (By the way, rolling this out without telling the colleges, and expecting the colleges to blindly accept it is another stroke of evil genius strategy, much like they did with AP Lite.  College Board makes us the bad guys if we question the emperor and his lack of clothes.)  We have more time, this time.

How much more are we going to take from these two private companies that have so much control over who goes to college, and who goes to which college?

There has been much written about how we will never return to “normal,” after COVID-19 and if we do, shame on us.  Private companies running America’s admissions process should be the first thing we throw overboard.

By Jon Boeckenstedt

I am currently the Vice Provost of Enrollment Management at Oregon State University; what you see here is solely my opinion, and does not necessarily represent the viewpoint of anyone at OSU.

4 replies on “A Few Thoughts About Testing and COVID-19”

If the NACAC President’s recent editorial and pending letter to CollegeBoard & ACT is any indication, perhaps there is hope.

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