The Illinois State Board of Education requires all high school students in the state to take the SAT exam for graduation from high school. That requirement is still in force during the pandemic, although students will not be prevented from graduating if they don’t take the college entrance exam as a result of the pandemic, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Juniors usually take the SAT in the spring during the school day, as the state pays for the test and offers it during school hours by arrangement with the test provider.
Except last year brought universal school closures before the first day of spring, which led to the cancellation of that state-sponsored exam day.
Today was one of the make-up testing days, and thousands of students, most of them seniors, reported to their high schools across the state and took the SAT. Different schools followed different practices for maintaining social distancing and taking other health-safeguarding precautions, such as allowing no more than 12 students in a classroom to take the test.
Not everyone thinks this is a good idea.
“Our predominantly Black and Latinx students and their families are facing many economic, social, health, and emotional challenges in this moment. Yet, [Chicago Public Schools] is still requiring seniors to take the SAT before they graduate,” the paper quoted the Chicago Teachers Union as saying on its website Tuesday. “During this stressful time, CPS should not ask seniors to endure the additional stress of taking a test where what they have learned takes a back seat to their ability to answer multiple choice questions.”
“The utility of the SAT even in normal times has no value, but we’re in a pandemic, and forcing students into school buildings that are closed because of a disease that has taken 200,000 American lives is nuts,” the Tribune quoted Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director of the Boston-based FairTest, as saying. FairTest is a standardized testing watchdog group.
Indeed, many colleges and universities, but not all, have lost interest in the SAT in evaluating students for admission. This is especially true this year with the pandemic but goes quite a bit further in some cases. For example, the University of California system in May voted to phase out the ACT or SAT requirement for all its schools over the next four years, joining a growing list of other colleges and universities.
Illinois has been granted a waiver from the US Department of Education for administering the test to high school students for accountability purposes, as every state that applied for a waiver last year was granted, all but automatically. But taking the test still can provide some value for students, Illinois educators say.
“With disruptions to testing last fall due to the work stoppage and last spring due to COVID-19, it’s critically important students have the option of taking the exams this fall to meet critical deadlines,” the Tribune quoted CPS spokesman Joe Gherardi as saying, adding that for students seeking enrollment in college, “the SAT remains one of the single most important data points schools consider when determining eligibility.”
Except for those colleges that don’t consider that data point important at all.