Coronavirus and the SAT

Coronavirus and the SAT

I did not think that a virus would be what killed the SAT.

While the writing has been on the wall for many years, the SAT's mindshare may be waning faster than we might have expected. To review where we were before February, the University of California was currently investigating whether or not they will continue to to use the SAT as one of the criteria for admissions.

Lawsuits against the use of the SAT call it 'unethical,' 'unfair,' and 'ineffective,' among other terms. The suits allege that standardized tests (and particularly the SAT) exacerbate inequities that already exist among those from different socioeconomic classes. The University of California Board of Regents has a meeting in May to decide the future of their relationship with the College Board and at that point we'll know for certain. Naturally, the College Board, a billion-dollar non-profit (with hundreds of millions of dollars stashed offshore in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens - yes, it's true) has certainly been lobbying to keep the test in good favor. In fact, they even tried to make it mandatory as a complete replacement for year-end exams in 11th and 12th grades in California, a motion vetoed by the Governor.

The UC School System, with roughly 170,000 tests per year, is the College Board's largest customer. As the second largest university system in the world, the UC School System is also historically a trendsetter in education policy, so the College Board definitely does not want to lose them as a customer.

But seems like this last month will give the Board of Regents a bit more to think about...

Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, SATs have been cancelled all over the world for the foreseeable future. Either in direct response or perhaps galvanized by effects of the virus, more universities have announced that they will remove standardized tests from being considered during the admissions process. Tufts University is an example. Others (including Harvard University) have stated that students will 'be at no disadvantage' by not submitting scores, essentially moving the admissions process into the 'test optional,' category. MIT has kept the SAT requirement, but dropped any SAT II requirement, joining CalTech in doing so. Just this week, the University of Oregon School System announced they were going fully test-free.

All IB exams have been cancelled, AP exams are going online (though are rumored to be cancelled as well), and GCSE and A-Levels have also been indefinitely axed. There are quite a number of knock on effects from this: For students - those in their junior and senior years of high school will have the next two months of time to focus on their grades and other hobbies and activities, without needing to worry about the tests. It's possible LL can scoop up some of their time if they are available. For parents - there will be a push from those of freshman and sophomores to both register for tests earlier in case the pandemic continues as well as ways to bolster their CVs beyond the test scores.

On a larger scale though, it's clear to me that coronavirus has killed the SAT.

It will be a protracted demise over the next decade or so, but the trend line is unmistakable.

This whole time I thought the downfall of the SAT was going to be some rich white men in a room pretending they cared about social justice but really just trimming the university expense account. I certainly did not think it would be a 120-nanometer particle that has careened around the world with virulent violence.