Opinion: Why the Coronavirus Should be the Catalyst for Getting Rid of Standardized Testing

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Marwa Chohan, Contributing Writer, Albuquerque NM

Harvard University’s director of admissions recently announced a temporary test-optional policy for the class of 2021. Following this announcement, all Ivy League universities and other selective colleges such as Northwestern University have adopted similar policies. As these highly sought out changes begin to take form, many are asking why these changes will not be made permanent. Experts in the world of college admissions have long denounced standardized testing due to inherent bias in favour of those in higher socio-economic status as well as providing emphasis on test specific skills that do not accurately reflect learning throughout one’s academic career. As the coronavirus forces institutions to forgo standardized testing, whether temporarily or permanently, many students are left wondering what the future of them will be.

For decades, experts in the world of college admissions have clearly expressed their disapproval of standardized testing. A large part of this is due to the fact that multiple studies have shown that high test scores have correlated with higher incomes. That is, students who come from families that can afford private tutoring are much more likely to score higher than their peers who don’t. Similarly, students that come from a private school education are also much more likely to score higher. This correlation directly affects minority populations– namely, black and hispanic students. In the age of a civil movement that is challenging race relations in our country, this becomes even more crucial to consider.

While many colleges have adopted test optional policies, many question whether or not this might affect outcomes of admissions. At universities that have traditionally used test scores as a large factor in admissions, namely Harvard, and other Ivy League schools, many prospective students are worried that they may be put at a disadvantage if they don’t submit scores. Studies have shown that at test optional schools, those who chose not to submit tests were admitted at a lower rate than those did, once again, creating a monopoly system.

Anxiety is also a major factor in the wold of standardized testing. Students who have anxiety are more likely to yield lower test results, which can dramatically decrease one’s chances of getting into a top notch school. A 2017 study found that test anxiety can start in students in the elementary school level. Moreover, 9% of teens have anxiety disorders and 37% have reported that stress can become so prevalent that it is overwhelming. In a society where teens are becoming increasingly stressed and so much importance is placed on a score, testing provides yet another inequality for students across the country. No one should be put at a disadvantage due to mental health.

Standardized testing is also a cause for major Coronavirus concerns. Despite mask and social distancing requirements, a large amount of students are expected to attend these testing centers. As we have seen over the months, large gatherings across the country have continually been the catalyst for rising infections and test centers may prove to be no different. As we reconsider sending children to school, we must also consider the repercussions of still offering testing at all this year.

In ever changing circumstances, it seems that the only stride in making the college admissions process equal is in getting rid of it altogether. From income and race bias to major health concerns, testing is a system that favours one population of students over the other. As many point out, these tests don’t accurately reflect one’s learning through high school either so the scores are simply that– a score and nothing more. If we truly wish to be more equitable, we must begin with getting rid of standardized testing altogether.