Changed testing policy yields beneficial outcomes

George Lefkowicz, News Managing Editor

The biggest fear for many juniors and seniors across the nation is not Pennywise the clown from “It” or Jason from “Friday the 13th.” The most stress-inducing, nightmare event belongs to two three-letter acronyms.

For years, the ACT and SAT have struck fear into the hearts of high school students due to the massive implications these tests have on college acceptance.

Luckily for high school students, on Oct. 8, the ACT Inc. announced changes in its testing policy that benefits students applying to colleges in the future by giving them more testing options.

The new policy, which will be implemented in Sep. 2020, will allow students to retake individual sections based on prior scores instead of taking the entire four-hour test again. These section tests will be available on national testing days and will be accessible via computer.

ACT Inc. is touting the change as a means to increase choice for students, lower wait times for students and allow for a better college picture.

This move also seeks to decrease the financial gap between students by lowering costs overall. ACT Inc.’s chief commercial officer Suzana Delanghe said over half of high school students take the test more than once.

Students and families will no longer have to continuously pay the $58 for the test or $62 for the test with writing, they will only have to pay the price of one section, which the ACT has not yet revealed. The time and resources used to retake tests are simply not available to every student, and this change seeks to remedy that.

A change in section testing procedures is important but is not the largest nor most important impact of this policy change. The main goal of the ACT’s change is to increase the use of super scoring by U.S. colleges.

Superscoring exists when colleges take a student’s best score from individual sections and use those “superscores” to create a better test score for the ACT and SAT. The problem is that current super scoring policies are not used fairly across colleges.

Edison Prep, an Atlanta-based tutoring service, found that the SAT is almost universally superscored, while only 20 percent of U.S. colleges “superscore” the ACT. This policy gives the 2.2 million students who take the SAT administered by the College Board an unfair advantage over the 1.9 million who take the ACT.

The change in the ACT testing policy now directly sends students’ “superscores” to colleges, which relieves those institutions from super scoring themselves. The ACT Inc. said “superscores” provide for a better estimate of students’ success in colleges than flat composite scores.

Along with leveling the playing field with the College Board, the ACT policy also puts pressure on the SAT to make their tests more accommodating in terms of scoring, especially after the organization scrapped a plan for an adversity score that calculated a student’s hardships from poverty to crime rates after intense blowback.

Overall, standardized testing is in decline. Many colleges are choosing to make their application process test score free after looking at inequalities within the system. This move by the ACT seems to be a last-ditch effort to maintain relevance that just so happens to offer benefits to the millions of high schoolers who still take the test.