Dear Decaturish – Georgia Board of Regents should make standardized tests optional
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It is essential that the University System of Georgia Board of Regents make standardized tests optional for the upcoming application cycle, as many other public and private institutions throughout the country have already done. If the Board of Regents does not make this policy change, many Georgia students will be unable to apply to schools in our state, inequities already present in college admissions will be amplified, and we will risk losing many great students to universities in other states.
Since March 2020, students have had a very difficult time being able to take the ACT and SAT tests as both of these organizations have canceled test dates due to COVID-19. Additionally, as some test dates have reopened in certain locations, there are fewer testing centers due to risks associated with COVID, therefore there are fewer seats with more students trying to get a spot. Many high schools that have served as testing centers have opted to no longer do so, and others now allow only their own students to take tests at their sites. On July 18, many students across the country arrived to ACT testing sites to find that the test was canceled due to test materials not arriving in time. Others arrived to discover that the testing sites had decided to only allow students from their own high schools to take the tests.
All of this has created a situation in which students in Georgia, through no fault of their own, are unable to take a standardized test which is still required for admission to our state institutions. This is adding extreme pressure to students and families to try to accomplish something that is out of their control. If testing is able to happen in the fall, there will not be enough seats for all of the students who need to take a test. With Early Action admissions deadlines of October 15 at UGA and Georgia Tech, many students will not have the option to apply for that deadline. This will preclude students from being considered for academic scholarships at Georgia Tech and automatic consideration for the Honors College at UGA. The same will happen for students who wish to apply to Georgia State through the Honors and Scholarship Priority Deadline of November 1. Looking beyond these early deadlines, given the trajectory of COVID cases in Georgia and the complete mismanagement of testing by the College Board and ACT during this crisis, it does not seem likely that all students who wish to apply to a university in Georgia will have the opportunity to take a standardized test in time for even the regular admissions deadlines.
It is also essential to acknowledge that the most financially resourced students in our state, and the students with a lot of support in the college admissions process will be more likely to find ways to take the required tests, while low-income and first-generation college students will be less likely to do this. Students with financial means and extra support will travel to other locations to take a test; some who have had college admissions on their radar for several years have already taken a test at least once; and high schools that serve as testing centers for their own students tend to be private schools or public schools in higher-income areas. Also, even if testing becomes more available, students with underlying health risks or who live in households with someone who is more vulnerable to COVID, will have to decide if it is worth the risk of being exposed to the virus in an SAT or ACT test center.
If the Georgia Board of Regents does not make standardized tests optional for all schools in the University System of Georgia, the inequities in college admissions will be exacerbated. Also, if students in parts of the country where COVID is more under control than in Georgia are able to take standardized tests, we could end up in a situation where out-of-state students are able to fulfill the admissions requirements while many in-state students are not. This might be beneficial to the finances of the universities, but terrible for students in our state.
I implore the Board of Regents to make standardized tests optional for the upcoming admissions cycle. Students in Georgia need the Board to make this change immediately and not wait until their Aug. 11 meeting, so that students can move forward knowing they have the option to apply to our in-state schools.
Independent Educational Consultant
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