Standardized testing criteria is not enough

Last Thursday, Congress considered a proposal that would bar colleges and universities from receiving federal aid if they considered race when granting admission. The latest proposal shows how the Texas and California legal battles on affirmative action have set an alarming trend in the higher education admission process. The University of California has seen enrollment numbers of blacks and Latinos on some of its campuses drop since affirmative action was banned. Inevitably, more universities nationwide face increased segregation if they only have standardized test scores left as a basis for admission. If colleges want a diverse pool of applicants and enrollees, they will have to find alternative ways to admit students.
With the possibility of more affirmative action programs eliminated in the United States, colleges might have to rely more on grade point averages and standardized tests as a basis for admitting students. Each year, more than 2.5 million students take standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT and GRE. The Education Testing Service has collected demographic and educational data on 90 million students who have taken the test. The ETS concluded that the tests should not be relied too much upon because they do not always measure merit accurately. The tests could be modified to be more inclusive of the larger student population they’re supposed to represent. But it’s a formidable task. Because it costs $100,000 and takes 18 months to prepare a new test, the ETS cannot always modify its educational testing techniques in a timely manner.
The standardized tests were developed about half a century ago partly to even out the socioeconomic disparities among students. It was recognized that there were widely varying academic standards based on the educational institution of students. Today standardized tests reflect the opposite of their original intentions hundreds of years ago. Such tests are the subject of a growing debate about how accurately they measure the best and brightest students. Some argue that high scores chiefly identify the richest students and help them get into the nation’s most selective colleges. Such students can afford to receive instruction that focuses on key testing areas — a far reach from a well-rounded education. Opponents are also skeptical that the standardized tests are written for a select group of elites. The broad range of academic backgrounds is not considered enough in standardized testing. Rather, they help certain students get admitted into the nation’s most selective colleges.
Educational institutions have a right to uphold their scholastic standards. But if they want the criteria of intelligence to remain, colleges must consider other factors besides test scores when recruiting students. Requiring students to write personal essays about their educational goals and achievements would add to knowing someone’s scholarship potential. It is only with added information besides statistics that a student’s true promise can be determined.
A plethora of ongoing legal battles and new proposals in the Legislature reflect the affirmative action laws are in for a major change, if not a complete burial. But if colleges have to continue their mission to provide educational opportunities to a diverse nation of students, the search for a better test criteria is needed.