Standardized testing is a pervasive aspect of schooling in America. From a young age, students are routinely scored against each other, and classes shift to “teach the test” rather than teach the material. The emphasis on standardized testing cannot be understated-tests such as the SAT, the ACT, AP tests, to name a few, dominate the narrative of high schoolers across the country. As COVID-19 swept the world into unprecedented territory, the question is raised: what will the future of standardized testing in America look like?
In mid-January, the College Board announced that they would begin development of an online-version of the SAT. This came as a shock to many who had seen the trials and tribulations of the online AP testing format which emerged in May of 2020. This announcement comes after a tumultuous year of test cancelations, public pushback, and is especially shocking as numerous colleges have declared themselves test-optional. Test-optional admissions are the first way in which the standardized testing space will be shifted. As many colleges and universities began to recognize the obstacles many students face while attempting to take standardized tests, they stopped including scores from those tests as application requirements. Barriers to testing are not unique to COVID, however, because barriers such as lack of funding or inability to reach a testing site have barred students from taking these tests for as long as they’ve been administered.
These tests remain immensely important-irrespective to their requirement for college. In many states-such as Idaho-a score on the SAT or ACT is a requirement for graduation. As testing centers began closing, it became a struggle for many students to take these tests, which put them at risk of not graduating. This resulted in massive pushbacks, including a multi-day meeting of the Idaho State Board of Education in which dozens of students testified.
The SAT and ACT are not the only standardized tests which are tentative to change. The College Board developed an online AP Testing format, which debuted in May. The format entailed a shortened version of the usual 3-hour AP test, which determines if college credit is earned for the course. These tests were met with mixed opinions from the public. Nevertheless, the College Board has planned to release online formats again in 2021. The format will be different-the test will be as long as the regular, in-person test, but will just remain in an optional online format. Online formats such as this allow for fewer barriers of entry to many students, who might otherwise be unable to take a standardized test.
As the world begins a slow process of recovery, standardized testing will shift immensely. Following the successful implementation of online AP tests, we will begin to see a wider range of options for testing formats-which will affect massive change in removing the barriers to testing. Additionally, as colleges and universities stop considering testing a requirement, but rather as an augmentation to an application, the emphasis in schooling will shift away from the testing-centric approach we are familiar with and towards a more holistic approach.