Today is a big day for ACT scores. The February 12 test date has come and gone and today is the day for many to get their scores from that test. I remember well the pins and needles I felt the day I got my SAT and ACT scores, but with a little luck, my own children -- currently 2.5 and 4 -- will never have to deal with that stress. The fact is, standardized tests are overrated.
Don't believe me? Consider this: There are currently more than 800 schools in the US that either do not weigh standardized test scores or weigh them in a way that is slightly non-traditional. In fact, several of the top liberal arts schools in the country -- Colby, Bowdoin, Bates, Middlebury, and Bryn Mawr among others -- are now accepting students with some variation of test optional.
Good on them. Because the fact is, standardized tests prove nothing.
“There is a growing body of research that shows that the SAT/ACT are not very useful,” says Robert Schaeffer, public education director of The National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), a nonprofit advocacy group devoted to studying the bias inherent in standardized testing.
Roughly 1.3 million high school students take the Educational Testing Service's SAT every year, according to FairtTest. It's the most commonly used college entrance exam and is designed to predict students' first year college grades.
But, according to FairTest, it often misses the mark. College females typically do better than college males in both high school and college, yet in 2009 alone, 69 percent of test-takers with perfect (800) math scores were males, according to the College Board’s statistics.
As schools move away from standardized testing, which really only proves how well students take tests, they are weighing other things -- things that probably matter more -- more heavily. Some schools require a graded high school essay and many art institutes, conservatories, and technical institutes -- Juilliard, Berklee College of Music -- look heavily at portfolios that showcase talent over test scores.
Considering how easy it is to coach SAT scores, it makes a lot of sense. I brought my own SAT scores up from a 1,100 to a 1,300 in high school just by learning a few little tricks on testing. Was I suddenly smarter? No. I just knew their little tricks a little better. How does that actually prove anything but how well I test?
If you are getting your ACT scores today and you are disappointed, take heart. There are plenty of schools that are learning quickly what a crock standardized testing truly is. And good luck.