A growing number of colleges and universities have dropped the SAT and ACT requirement for fall 2021 applicants due to the coronavirus pandemic, raising questions about whether this is the beginning of the end of college-entrance exams. But before we start celebrating the death knell for standardized tests, we need to consider what their data suggest.
While by no means perfect, standardized tests like the ACT and SAT do share vital data about students’ academic proficiencies and skills needed to excel in college courses and career goals. In essence, they offer a scorecard on how well students are comprehending and retaining instruction provided in the classroom.
So, what do the data from the ACT and SAT tell us about U.S. high school students’ preparation?
The fact is, average English, Math, and Reading test scores across the nation have been declining for years, with 35 percent of high school graduates currently failing to meet benchmarks for college readiness in all subjects.
Our country’s unfortunate reality is that our students are not learning to write, nor are they developing a solid background in math and reading.
These scores showing lack of college readiness tell us that these students were unable to combine sentences to form ideas, did not know where to place an apostrophe to make a word possessive, and were not confident when choosing between “your” and “you’re” or “there” and “their.” Beyond the test, it means they likely don’t have the basic proficiency needed to clearly convey their ideas in an email, write a cover letter, or communicate with clients in professional settings.
The students who score below readiness benchmarks in Math incorrectly answered 72 percent of questions about percentages, probability, and other fundamental math concepts. These students will likely lack the knowledge necessary to balance a checkbook, understand interest rates on credit cards, or manage long-term financial planning.
These issues will not magically disappear even if colleges permanently eliminate college admissions tests. These issues will only disappear when we do the hard work of ensuring all students are proficient in the building blocks of a good education.
The long-term effects of COVID-19 on education are yet to be seen. One effect of COVID-19 is certain: the underlying academic proficiency issues our nation’s students face will only get more serious with COVID-slide from school closures and expected continued learning disruption.
Luckily, this is not a lost cause. To fill in the gaps, students and concerned parents may need to place greater focus on at-home enriching activities and seek out extra resources and support. For example:
- Spending an additional hour each day reading can do wonders to boost processing speed, retention, and writing skills. Ideally, teens should read 50 pages per day.
- Journaling can help students learn to organize their thoughts on paper.
- Doing puzzles or brain riddles can improve focus and sustained attention.
- Reading the news daily can increase analytical skills.
- Reading magazines like Scientific American or Discovery can improve students’ abilities to interpret figures, tables, and graphs.
- Enrolling in an online course can facilitate review of core curricular subjects.
Ultimately, it’s not about learning tricks to game a test. It’s about actually learning the material. When learning is the focus, we will see soaring test scores, better study habits, increased confidence and, more importantly, a better educated class of graduates. As a ‘bonus’ we may even see a new generation with a passion for life-long learning.
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About Winward Academy – Winward Academy is one of the world’s leading innovators in the online education space, providing web-based academic support that enhances students’ knowledge, confidence, and competitiveness in middle and high school academics and in college applications. We help thousands of students every year by providing personalized, comprehensive ACT and SAT test preparation and extensive math curriculum support. The Winward Academy learning platform honors over 40 years of education and cognitive psychology research, incorporating proven techniques that promote effective learning.
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