You are more than a number: Standardized tests shouldn’t be the standard

Gwen Henry | Cartoonist

By The Editorial Board

On March 11, the University of Texas at Austin announced it is returning to requiring standardized testing for admissions. While the draw of using the SAT and the ACT in admissions is understandable and has been normalized for decades, it unfairly assumes that everyone has the same access to educational resources, advanced classes, study materials, prep classes and support from teachers and family.

The reality is that everyone does not have this sort of access. Students who don’t perform well in a standardized testing environment could be some of the best and brightest of their generation, and they shouldn’t be penalized for that or barred from one of the best public universities in the country for the crime of being right-brained or not enjoying sitting in a chair for four hours and staring at a wall.

The ability to thrive in a standardized testing environment doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and succeeding on these tests depends on having adequate time and energy to study. For high school students who work to help support their family or who have to be the caretakers of younger siblings, this just isn’t a possibility. Earning a 1600 on the SAT is simply not in the cards for many, by no fault of their own.

The argument for the use of standardized testing is that it levels the playing field and provides all with an equal opportunity to succeed. At a test-optional school like Baylor, the given reasons for why a student may want to submit scores are that it can make up for differences in how one’s school operates or calculates grades and that some courses at the university “have specific entrance requirements, including either documented ACT or SAT scores or qualifying entrance exam scores.”

While these test requirements are implemented in the spirit of fairness, standardized testing has never been about fairness. In its origins, the SAT was created in an attempt to quantify white people’s “superior” intelligence. Carl C. Brigham, the inventor of the SAT during the 1920s, was a self-professed eugenicist, and he wrote a study on the test that analyzed results by race. While the test has come a long way since its roots, it’s undeniable that its purpose has always been to gatekeep higher education from those without the means to be high-achieving high school students.

The COVID-19 pandemic allowed thousands of students to decline sending standardized test scores to schools for admissions, which at Baylor resulted in the largest freshman class ever in fall 2021. More people getting college degrees is always a net positive.

The University of Texas is a public university and should be concerned with making itself accessible to the brightest, smartest students every year — not just those with high SAT and ACT scores. After all, you can study for a test, but you can’t study your way into critical thinking skills, adaptability, work ethic, creativity and talent, all of which aren’t measured by these tests.

Baylor should keep its policy in place and continue to not take a student’s quality of high school education into account with an unfair test. Students need to remain evaluated by their essays, transcript, resume and application itself — not by one number.