Dear Deans of Admissions,
My future is based on a number. My intelligence is calculated based on a multiple choice exam. An exam that has been averaged across all demographics and academic capabilities to fit the baseline testing abilities for students, an exam that determines my future path as an educated individual. I am not a test taker. My academic abilities cannot be portrayed through a scantron. I have a creative mind, one that is eager to think beyond the answer - to investigate, research, and persevere until I am satisfied with my newfound knowledge. My ability to showcase my work ethic, my devotion to studies, my academic capabilities, my perseverance and my focus cannot simply be bubbled in on a scantron. Yet, this scantron and its score will be among the highest factors in determining where I go to college - where I go with the rest of my life - and when I say that tests aren’t for me, I’m just one voice among millions urging the reconsideration of the role of standardized testing in the college admission process.
I am writing to you today to discuss the inherent problems within college readiness exams such as the SAT and the ACT. I am fully aware you do not write the test, nor do you administer the test. Yet, as Deans of Admissions, you have the power to change the demoralizing cycle of college admissions that denies highly capability students of acceptance based on one bad score. Standardized scores do nothing to suggest what a student might contribute to the character and vitality of an intellectual community. Instead, they simply demonstrate the ability of a student to bubble in answers and a family's economic capability to afford tutoring.
Standardized tests further the disparities between economically capable and incapable students. Preparing for these tests often comes at a high cost, as the competitive drive for students to outscore their classmates initiates further complications. ArborBridge, which provides online tutoring via videoconferencing, offers a 60-hour test preparation package for about $9,000. That’s more than the average cost of in-state tuition and fees at a four-year public university, which totaled around $8,700 last year, according to the College Board.
Students facing economic challenges do not receive the privilege of tutoring. These students walk into the test a step behind their economically capable counterparts, furthering the socio-economic divide among student populations. Students from households which earn less than $20,000 per year on average scored around 400 points lower on the 2014 SAT than students from households which made $200,000 per year, according to Nyack News.
Furthermore, standardized testing demonstrates very little about a student’s capacity for intelligence, creative thinking, and their ability to contribute to an intellectual community. In multiple studies, elementary school children who performed higher on standardized testing demonstrated shallow thinking and lower levels of creativity, according to Gale, an educational publishing company. A series of multiple choice questions allow for little or no original thought and actively discourages creative thinking and intelligent responses. Students are not pieces of clothing - we do not fit into the “one size fits all category” dictated by standardized exams.
Those in favor of tests such as the ACT and SAT argue that standardized testing is an objective measure of baseline intelligence. These tests are designed to provide an unfiltered version of a student’s knowledge based on core subjects such as math and reading. Although I can understand the intentions behind these exams, the purpose they serve in our education system is unnerving. The United States holds a plethora of opportunities to test intelligence outside of the ACT and SAT, as the average high school student takes eight standardized tests a year, and these exams no longer serve the same purpose they did in past decades. Students' scores on these tests do not provide an accurate index of intellectual capabilities as they measure no level of creative thinking or quality of education.
Educators have recognized the many problems with these standardized tests and are building a new system of measuring college readiness. The movement to adopt proficiency-based approaches to teaching, learning and graduating has gained momentum throughout the country in the past decade, and continues to excel as standardized testing becomes a figure of the past. Over 72 public and private universities across the country, including Harvard University, Dartmouth, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are pursuing education reform in their college admission processes based on proficiency instead of a standardized test score. These schools are working to shift to new transcripts that provide more comprehensive, qualitative feedback on students with disregard to letter grades, a progressive system which focuses on student capabilities inside and outside the classroom. I urge you to take these education reform ideas into consideration when rethinking the effectiveness of standardized testing.
Although I realize that changing the implications of standardized tests disrupts the status quo of college admissions, I encourage you to reevaluate the ability for a single test to demonstrate academic capability in an intellectual community. The concept of basing college admission heavily on an ACT or SAT score strips away individual creativity and intellectual capacity, and instead replaces pursuers of academia to a number on a piece of paper. These tests demoralize students and replace the interest in student achievement and individual capabilities with a focus on test scores. Other means of measuring intellectual capabilities must be pursued to break the unvarnished cycle of weighting a test score equivalent to a student’s worth. If you want creative, individual and passionate thinkers on your college campus, rethinking your emphasis on standardized testing will actively encourage eager learners to partake in a newfound educational community.
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