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What the Changes in Standardized Testing Mean for Project Morry Students

What the Changes in Standardized Testing Mean for Project Morry Students

By Eric Beriguete, Project Morry Director of College and Career Readiness

“Whether you see standardized testing as useful or harmful, remember this: Even the most influential exams are mere products, made and marketed by human beings. And when the market changes, products once billed as essential can become obsolete.”(Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 2021) These changes include the discontinuation of the SAT subject tests and the optional essay by the College Board. At the same time, amidst the pandemic, many schools are adopting or continuing a test-optional approach to these exams as barriers continue to arise with getting students to take the exam. Many have noted that Covid-19 making it difficult for students to take the SATs and ACTs in 2020 and now 2021. The temporary suspension comes at a time where calls for removal of the exams as assessments for students’ collegiate ability were gaining traction. Appeasing the masses, while taking a look at the financial impact on the College Board; removing the optional essay and the subject tests seems like a no-brainer as fewer and fewer students took advantage of these exams/essays.


Looking back, it’s important to remember that the evolution of the SATs started as a means to create uniform college admissions testing which shifted the admissions process from high schools to the colleges themselves. The initial examination process lasted 5 days and tested a series of subjects that would allow admissions boards to identify applicants that would excel in higher education. As most know during the early 1900s, the Ivy leagues reigned supreme and higher education was more of an option rather than a requirement. During the mid-twentieth century, the exam expanded beyond Ivy League schools to most four-year public and private colleges and universities participating in the admissions system that our Project Morry students and alumni have experienced.

Change Does Not Guarantee Access

In addition to potentially assessing college readiness, the exams also highlight the differences in access for students of low-income areas. With unlimited SAT prep programs and the time to devote to studying, students with the resources can perform well on these exams, while marginalized groups see another potential barrier to accessing higher education and economic mobility. The current shift in testing reduces but does not eliminate those barriers.

It’s important to note that while reducing the use of the SAT and ACT in the college admissions process removes one barrier to college for low-income and students of color, that alone does not correlate to greater access for students of color. Instead, it changes the focus to how colleges will assess applicant readiness in the absence of standardized tests. Experts are predicting greater emphasis on Advanced Placement courses, specialized academic competitions or extracurricular activities to determine a student’s ability to handle rigorous college courses. However, the same inequity in resources that disproportionately impacts students for the SAT, impacts access to expensive college courses and academic competitions. Simply stated, the same schools that cannot afford SAT prep or college guidance counselors, do not have the funds for Advanced Placement courses or subsidize student participation in extracurricular activities.

Project Morry Students

As Project Morry’s Director of College and Career Readiness, when it comes to our students, I have a mixed response to the changes. Some schools, due to the disarray from the pandemic, haven’t provided much information about the SATs because the focus has been adapting to the changes. Other schools have mentioned the exam and continue to find ways to connect our students to virtual programs and resources. Our students are resourceful and take advantage of any opportunity they’re presented with. Rather than passing up on opportunities, they recognize that while some schools are going optional and changes are happening, they are still striving for the best. Some of our children were interested in doing more intensive SAT prep and supplementing it with support services from Project Morry. Others choose to gain real-world experience by working and participating in internships and focusing on cultivating their hobbies.

Adversity isn’t something new to our kids and while the College Board works to address the ways exams reinforce socio-economic disparities, our kids will continue to rise to the challenge and take traditional exams not designed for their success and perform their best. They are aware of the necessary stepping stones required to reach their goals and they are utilizing this moment as an opportunity to find new ways to stand out as applicants.

Over the last year, the pandemic has brought to the forefront the inherent inequities in our education system from elementary school to college with standardized testing being one of many. We have known for years that the SAT exam only states how lucky and “smart” students are on the particular day they take the exam. It does not attest to the quality of students they are and can become. This is a call to action for colleges and universities to find innovative and creative ways to assess students in ways that match their experiences and potential for future success and use the admissions process as a tool to promote a more equitable society.