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ACT or No ACT? Ask University of Chicago

Chances are, if you have children in high school, or had children in high school, or work in a school system, you have heard the students stress over the ACT standardized test.

In their minds, understandably, they think a bad, or not good enough, ACT score will derail their chances of getting accepted to some colleges.

The whole construct of accepting students based on one test score has been debated more and more recently, but one Illinois University will make a milestone by getting rid of the ACT requirement that unfairly discriminates based on one performance.

The University of Chicago is becoming the first major research university to stop requiring American undergraduate applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores, according to an Associated Press story from June 14. Some liberal arts colleges have also done this.

Now the initiative, which includes other items to help make school more accessible for students, is not set to start until 2023, but at least the university is recognizing that placing the value of a student on one test performance is not fair.

Some students have test anxiety. “Well if they have test anxiety on one high school test, how would they ever succeed in college?”

One test that has different questions every year is harder to study for than a test that you have had five weeks of notes in.

To be fair, schools also look at GPA’s when judging the students, but there in lies another problem. If a high school junior with a 2.0 GPA were to score a 30 on the ACT, it would be viewed as luck, and a 4.0 GPA student who scored a 20 would be viewed as not good enough, or they “choke” on tests.

But again, different factors could be in play. Colleges do not see the person and their work ethic or challenges they may face, they just see numbers and potential dollar signs.

Back to the unfairness of judging by a single score, let us not forget that race can play a factor too.

The ACT’s website shows average test scores of the 2015 graduating class by race. It is broken down by those who have taken “core or more” (having taken four-plus years of English and three-plus years of each of math, social studies and natural science) and the “less than core” students.

Black students in the “core or more” category averaged 17.8, while those who took less than core averaged 15.9. Latino students who took at least core averaged 19.6, while those who took less than core averaged 17.4. White students of the “core or more” averaged 23.2, and those who took less averaged 20.2. And Asian students who took at least core averaged the highest of any race/ethnicity, at 24.5, and those who took less than core averaged a score of 22.

Not those black and Latino students’ faults, by the way.

A New York Times article from March 21, 2014, highlights the disparities in education.

“A quarter of high schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students do not offer any Algebra II courses, while a third of those schools do not have any chemistry classes. Black students are more than four times as likely as white students — and Latino students are twice as likely — to attend schools where one out of every five teachers does not meet all state teaching requirements,” writes Motoko Rich.

So, thank you University of Chicago, for recognizing that students deserve a chance at higher education without worrying about one bad test score. Some students cannot control variables they may face when taking the test or even preparing for it, so it is about time we do not stress these students over the ACT.

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