Importance of standardized tests comes into question during COVID-19


Standardized testing has been a significant part of the college application process for many years, but with a growing number of colleges deciding not to require standardized test scores due to the the Covid-19 pandemic, many people are starting to question the necessity of these tests. 

Due to the cancelation of the SAT and PSAT in the spring of the 2020 school year, many changes have been implemented regarding the procedures of standardized tests. Now, there is an option for students to take standardized tests in the fall. 

“The SAT and PSAT offered this fall were requirements from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) for schools to offer, but there was no requirement for students to take them,” said Pioneer’s Assistant Principal Jason Skiba who is responsible for organizing the standardized testing at Pioneer. “In my opinion, the state wanted to make sure that the students who didn’t have the opportunity for testing in the spring would have a chance now for equity purposes.”

According to the MDE, the results of the fall testing will not be used for accountability reporting and the typical requirements for spring testing will be altered.

Pioneer counselor Colleen Creal said that there has been a decline of students signing up to take the PSAT and SAT this year because there is no requirement to take it.

“We probably have 50% of the kids signed up to take it,” she said. “I think a lot of kids are opting out with everything going on, it feels like it’s just one more thing to do.” 

With so many students unable to take the SAT because of the coronavirus pandemic, college applications will look very different than they have in years past. The College Board has asked colleges to extend deadlines for receiving test scores and to equally consider students for admission who were unable to take the test. 

There was already a movement to make standardized test scores less significant, and the coronavirus has only made it stronger. According to IvyWise, over 400 colleges and universities have said that students will not be penalized for not having SAT scores in their college applications for this year, and over 180 schools have said that they will not be requiring standardized test scores from now on, according to the Washington Post. 

“I’m far less motivated to study for the SAT now that so many schools are test optional,” said Pioneer senior Jane Gary. “I don’t think my score will significantly affect my application for better or for worse.” 

But Creal still advises students to take standardized tests.

“A lot of scholarships and financial aid are tied to those tests, so it is in their best interest to have a score on file if they are wanting to be considered,” she said. “For kids who have good GPAs and low test scores, the test not being a factor is going to give them more opportunities for more colleges,” she said. 

Pioneer junior Jacob Selfridge said that he is still planning on taking the SAT in the spring.

“Even though many colleges are now test optional, I want to take it to see how I do and use that to my advantage for college,” he said. 

Pioneer junior Radina Dinov is happy with her decision to take the PSAT this year, “I think that taking this opportunity to practice for the SAT is a really good idea since it is such a huge deal,” she said. 

Finding a way to safely take standardized tests has been an issue for schools all across America.

“Health and safety of students and staff are always the forefront of any decisions and opportunities the school offers,” Skiba said. This was unfortunately the biggest roadblock for the school. “Keeping students safe while following the requirements for the MDE was one of the biggest challenges while planning for standardized testing,” he said. 

Students also found the health requirements to be a factor.

“It was quite annoying because we had to wear masks the whole time, it was a little distracting,” Dinov added. 

Although the SAT and PSAT were canceled in the spring of 2020, Advanced Placement tests were not. Instead, they were taken online from students’ homes.

“I’d be curious about how kids did on the test in a more relaxed environment,” Creal said. She explains how for some Pioneer students, just getting to the AP test location is already hard enough. “There’s just so many factors that have to be considered before a kid even sits down to take the test. The environment of the test shouldn’t be a factor of doing well on the test,” she said. 

Some Pioneer students were not happy with the online AP tests. Gary said that it was hard to stay focused while taking the test at home.

“I can’t help but wonder what my scores would have been if it weren’t for all these changes. I’d like to think that my scores accurately reflect my performance in the classes throughout the whole year, but I don’t always genuinely believe that,” she said. 

Last year’s AP tests were shortened which made many students’ AP test scores based off of one essay when there are usually three essays and a multiple choice section.

“I don’t think that people really understand the ramifications of what The College Board did,” said Sean Sabo, an AP English teacher at Pioneer. “I just thought that was unfair,” Sabo said, considering. last year’s tests to be invalid.

Many schools are now taking into account the inequality of AP test scores across the board. According to the University of Michigan Undergraduate Admissions, the inability to provide an AP test score won’t have an impact on the review of an application. 

Sabo is not sure whether he would advise his students to take the AP test in the spring. “If I were a student, I would pay really close attention to how they’re going to do on the test and what the status of the virus is,” he said. 

The College Board supports having in-school testing in the spring of 2021, saying that there will be a contingency plan for testing if the pandemic causes school closures. 

“I think there will be a decline in students deciding to take the AP test this year,” Sabo said. “I think there should be.” 

Students’ financial situations can have a big impact on standardized test scores. According to a study done by the Washington Post, students with families that earn more than $200,000 a year have an average combined SAT score of 1,714 out of 1800 but students whose families earn less than $20,000 a year will average a combined score of 1,326. 

“I feel like [standardized tests] are culturally biased, and they favor students who have the economic ability to take expensive prep courses and things like that,” Sabo said. 

Creal agrees. “There are so many barriers for kids to be successful on the test in our current system,” she said.

But she also believes that standardized testing is here to stay.

“I can tell you for sure they’re not going to do away with them, because it’s such a big money maker,” she said. According to Financial Samurai, the College Board made over 1 billion dollars through administering exams in 2017. 

Without standardized tests, colleges would have to develop assessment forms in an effort to be more equitable.

Gary said that in the past year, her list of colleges she was planning on applying, has changed a lot. “I think there’s a lot more pressure to have strong essays and extracurriculars,” she said. 

“My prayer is that testing does become less significant and that fewer scholarships are tied to it. I don’t see it going away, but I do see it becoming less of a determinant of kids’ college admissions, and I really think it should be,” said Creal.