CSUs and UCs suspend standardized testing requirements

Exploring perspectives on how changes to college application requirements will impact MVHS students

Picuture+used+from+The+California+State+University+website

Picuture used from The California State University website

Lance Tong

On April 17, California State Universities suspended the standardized testing requirements for 2021-2022 applicants. Approximately one month later, on May 21, the University of California also suspended standardized testing requirements through 2024. UCs administrators also indicated they will attempt to create their own standardized test for the 2025 school year.

Guidance counselor Clay Stiver recognizes that colleges previously used tests like the SAT and ACT as measurements of college readiness since it’s a universally accepted test across the U.S. 

“The higher your SAT score, the higher your ACT score, the more ready for college classes you are,” Stiver said. “Obviously, you score higher, you’re really ready for college or you’re very prepared. And, you’re expected to do very well. So, you know, pre-pandemic, for the majority of colleges, it was one of the top items that they’re looking at.”

However, Stiver personally believes that standardized testing is fundamentally flawed and believes there are better, more equitable alternatives. He says that the economically advantaged can usually afford to take preparatory classes and take the test multiple times to get the best possible scores, while the less privileged often cannot afford these same luxuries. 

However, junior Anushka Savale dislikes standardized testing for a different reason. She claims that because she “has never been good at standardized testing,” she thinks this as a good opportunity despite the divide in opinion.

“I feel like [standardized testing] gives us an opportunity to try something different and see how that could work, because there are a lot of people like me who are not great at taking tests and seeing how we can come up with an alternative [will be helpful],” Savale said.

Sophomore Conner Liu, however, believes that standardized testing should be reinstated. According to Liu, standardized testing is a good method for colleges to gauge factors often not included in grades.

“I believe that standardized testing is a great measure of not just intelligence, but more importantly, willpower and grit and the ability to persevere and study for a test for a long amount of time,” Liu said. “By getting rid of standardized testing, we’re losing a very important measurement of future success of our future Americans.”

I believe that standardized testing is a great measure of not just intelligence, but more importantly, willpower and grit and the ability to persevere and study for a test for a long amount of time. By getting rid of standardized testing, we’re losing a very important measurement of future success of our future Americans.”

— Conner Liu

Savale disagrees with Liu and thinks that standardized testing fails to touch more on creative aspects. In the reading and writing sections, for example, she claims that the test creates a forced interpretation of different texts.

“I don’t really feel like it touches on the creative side of things, you know, because I feel like that’s a huge part of your brain,” Savale said. “It’s very objective, the entire test, …  because it’s all multiple choice. [But students should] interpret it however [they] want.”

Chris McNutt, founder of the Human Restoration Project, which seeks to “create radically student-centered classrooms through progressive educative practice,” sees standardized testing as an issue of “dictating curriculum that’s the same across the U.S.”

“[Standardized testing is] often a whitewashed, milquetoast curriculum,” McNutt said in an email. “It doesn’t measure intelligence and is rooted in racist and classist science. It provides false indicators to students who — if they perform well — think they are set up for success, which couldn’t be further from the truth, or — if they perform poorly — believing that they are failures.”

With the COVID-19 situation and UCs and CSUs removing the SAT/ACT requirement, Stiver thinks that more seniors in future years will be enticed to stay closer to home and attend local colleges.

“I think the community colleges in California are going to shoot through the roof this next year,” Stiver said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of students elect to stay in state and go to a CSU or a UC instead of out of state. I can already see with my seniors, a lot of students are electing to stay home and go to community college versus go to the East Coast for college.”

Liu believes that the new removal of the requirement of standardized testing will also shift more emphasis to one’s grades in the college decision process. He also believes that this will make 

“I think the logical way of seeing it is whatever is weighted higher would have a higher weight after the SATs and the ACT’s are removed,” Liu said. “It’s very clear that GPA and grades are a much higher weight than community service. Good grades are basically a must-have and community service is a bonus.”

McNutt agrees with Liu that without the standardized testing, grades will carry more weight, but still favors alternative solutions.

[Standardized testing is] often a whitewashed, milquetoast curriculum, It doesn’t measure intelligence and is rooted in racist and classist science. It provides false indicators to students who — if they perform well — think they are set up for success, which couldn’t be further from the truth, or — if they perform poorly — believing that they are failures.”

— Chris McNutt

“Testing does not indicate college success at the same rate as GPAs,” McNutt said in an email. “Personally, I believe that GPAs should be eliminated as well in lieu of a true portfolio system, but GPAs are still better than tests.”

McNutt believes using portfolios to showcase a student’s full college potential is a solution to move away from numeric measurements of success.

“The organization I’m most keyed in on is the Mastery Transcript — although any portfolio system would work,” McNutt said. “Many schools have already transitioned to portfolios or are resumes only. Any system that showcases achievements of students as opposed to testing is for the best. Tests were never meant to indicate individualized success.”

Savale agrees with McNutt that a portfolio system is a good way to show creative abilities that she felt were missing from standardized tests.

I think it could be a compilation of your work that you’ve done and maybe that compilation of work can have certain requirements that fulfill your logic abilities and your creative abilities,” Savale said. “I feel like it could be more focused, so if people were stronger in the creative side colleges can focus on that instead of the other side.”

Stiver prefers to replace standardized testing with personal essays in favor of placing more emphasis on students’ traits.

“I just don’t think they should [have standardized testing],” Stiver said. “I would love for them to put more emphasis on things like college essays. I’d love to see all colleges eliminate this test, but they all have an essay instead [to] give kids a chance to write about themselves.”

Stiver also believes that more emphasis should also be placed on valuing teacher references or letters of recommendation.

“I know it can be a pain for the admissions officers to have to read through all that stuff,” Stiver said. “But I think it gives a much better character reference of students, because there’s so much that a GPA just doesn’t tell but you know, they have the GPA, why the hell do you need test scores, you have an indicator right there with with, you know how well students do in AP Classes are an honors classes or in regular college prep classes.”

Despite advocating for removing standardized testing from the college application process, Stiver’s main message to rising seniors who have already taken the SAT is to submit the score to test optional schools no matter how good or bad the score is.

“I think there’s a lot of worry out there from students,” Stiver said. “If they [have] a bad SAT score or a score they’re not super proud of, it’s still okay to send it in. Test optional just means you can send in your scores and if it’s good, they’ll give you a plus one or it will be value added. But if they don’t like your score, your score is not high enough, it just will be neutral. Like it’s not going to be negative, nothing you send in is going to come back on you negatively. If you’re kind of on the fence, … just send them to make the colleges decide if it’s worthy or not, and it’s never going to reflect badly on you.”