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Stroebel: Remaining test free at UW schools ‘denying reality’

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(The Center Square) – There is pushback to the University of Wisconsin’s decision to make the SAT and ACT optional for students for the next few years.

State Sen. Duey Striebel, R-Cedarburg, on Tuesday said the plan to accept students’ high school grades only is short-sighted and politically motivated.

“Proponents of test-optional policies claim that standardized tests are biased, and that making them optional will help improve diversity on college campuses while addressing ‘systemic inequities’ in the world of higher education. This theory continues to be disproven, with numerous scholars noting that required testing can actually help identify disadvantaged students who have the potential to succeed in higher education,” Stroebel said.

UW regents approved an extension of the test-option policy. The university will not require the SAT or the ACT until at least the fall of 2027.

The University of Wisconsin dropped its testing requirement in 2020 during the COVID outbreak. But many on campus have continued to defend the idea that standardized tests are a poor judge of someone’s ability. Supporters say minority students are often poor test takers.

Stroebel said that is selling minority students short, and “denying reality.”

“As a graduate of UW-Madison, it is unfortunate to see that the UW System Board of Regents has announced that they will continue their test-optional admissions practice through 2027. This decision comes in spite of mounting evidence that shows that standardized test scores are more predictive of success in college than high school grades and that test-optional practices may end up hurting disadvantaged students more than they help,” Stroebel added.

The UW said in its presentation to the regents that freshman GPAs and test scores have remained consistent since the beginning of the test-optional policy. The university also added that most colleges and universities do not require standardized tests any longer.

“The initial and ongoing suspension of the ACT/SAT requirement has also become an increasingly common practice in higher education,” the UW stated. “Most states required test scores before COVID-19. Currently, more than 80% (1900-plus) of institutions are now test optional, including 20 of 53 state systems that have instituted permanent test optional or test blind policies in addition to almost all selective institutions—and most prospective students live in test optional states. All but one Big 10 institution is test optional (in addition to the four that will join in 2024), and neighboring states Illinois and Iowa are already permanently test optional, while Michigan and Minnesota are largely test optional.”

Still Stroebel said other colleges and universities are reversing course.

“A number of prestigious universities, such as M.I.T., Brown, Yale, and Dartmouth have reversed course and gone back to requiring applicants to submit test scores as part of their application process. The dean of admissions at M.I.T. even acknowledged that bringing back the test requirement yielded their most diverse freshman class in school history,” Stroebel added. “It is disheartening that, despite the growing evidence that test-optional polices are not beneficial to students, the UW System has chosen to reaffirm its commitment to the status quo, lowering expectations while simultaneously voting to raise the cost of tuition.”

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