OPINION: Florida should be test optional

The priority deadline for high school seniors applying to USF for the 2021 summer and fall semesters is Nov. 1. In the past, SAT or ACT scores have been required to complete the application. 

For prospective fall 2021 students, however, USF has decided to slightly “de-emphasize” the importance of the tests, while still requiring the submission of scores by students who had the opportunity to take them. 

The Office of Admissions implemented this change because many testing locations have been closed since March due to COVID-19 concerns, preventing numerous high school juniors and seniors from taking or retaking the SAT and ACT. It is unfair for the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) to still ask students to provide standardized test scores considering the circumstances, even if de-emphasized. 

The administration has said it will be focusing more on high school GPAs, curriculum and academics, which is what they should have been focusing on to begin with. Standardized testing is not traditionally an accurate depiction of a student’s academic abilities. 

According to College Board’s 2018 annual report, only 46% of high school students scored high enough on the SAT to be considered “ready for college-level courses.” 

Despite this, 66.2% of high school graduates in 2019 enrolled in a college or university, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which would mean that the SAT did not accurately assess many students’ intelligence levels.

There are more than 700 four-year colleges in the U.S. that are test optional, according to The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, yet none of the three major Florida universities allow students to choose whether or not to submit SAT and ACT scores. 

USF has not, and may not ever, go test optional for a variety of reasons. For one, if students are admitted without test scores, the university has less of a chance of being ranked on the U.S. News and World Report list, on which USF is currently ranked 46th among public universities. 

This ranking affects loans provided to the university and admission numbers, according to IvyWise, an education consulting organization. 

The Florida BOG should not require students to submit SAT or ACT scores from now on, considering their lack of reliability and common inaccuracy. It should start allowing students applying for the 2021-22 school year to choose whether or not to submit scores because of complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

GPAs, chosen curriculum and extracurricular activities are a lot more reflective of students’ abilities. A 2020 study compared graduation rates of over 55,000 students with similar ACT scores to graduation rates of those with similar high school GPAs. The researchers found that they could more consistently predict whether a student would graduate college based on what high school GPA they had rather than their ACT score. 

These arbitrary scores schools desire so much have proven to be barely accurate markers of future success.

The Florida BOG has the opportunity to stop making standardized testing a large aspect of students’ lives and start admitting students based on true academic standing and initiatives taken while in high school.