Gradually, then suddenly.

Gradually, then suddenly.

"How did you go bankrupt?"

"Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly."

  • Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

You may have seen a link I posted in the team WeChat Work thread: standardized tests in the USA faced another heavy setback this week as a judge in the Alameda district court ruled that using SATs and ACTs to decide admissions or scholarships is not constitutional. In the past twelve months we have witnessed an incredible shift in the role of standardized tests in college admissions in the US. This ruling is perhaps the most defiant statement yet as it literally prohibits them from being used.

Although Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is still planning to enforce nation-wide standardized tests for K-12 to gauge student progress, officials in some states (most notably the Governor of Georgia) are even pushing back there against their administration. That battle will be even more protracted than tests related to college admissions.

After half of the August SAT dates were cancelled last month due to covid-related concerns, even greater numbers of universities increased the test-optional policy for this coming admissions cycle. At this point, nearly 90 percent of liberal arts colleges are test-optional for this admissions cycle. For research universities, the figure is above 60 percent. The pace of change in just six months has been furious.

The pendulum will likely swing back towards center (as it always does) at some point in the next few years. There will surely be a new standardized test that appears that is ‘new and improved,’ similar to how the ACT grew in popularity after challenging the incumbent SAT. My expectation is not that standardized tests disappear forever. This ruling from the Alameda district court will be appealed (and in all likelihood overturned from the sounds of it). But for schools in the USA to continue to base admissions decisions and award scholarships on something that even rhymes or smells like racism or classism will be a hard sell. Reputation and brand defines these schools. They depend on it. The debate in the university board rooms over whether to keep tests will be long, but they will not be spirited.

Unless something serious changes in the next 6-12 months, we may witness some testing organizations and test prep companies go bankrupt.

Gradually, then suddenly.