ACT testing
One test shouldn't define a student's future. (Image via Unsplash)

It’s Time for Schools to Say Goodbye to Standardized Tests Like the Act

Standardized tests don’t reflect a student’s true abilities, and colleges need to start looking at the classwork that really matters.

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ACT testing
One test shouldn't define a student's future. (Image via Unsplash)

Standardized tests don’t reflect a student’s true abilities, and colleges need to start looking at the classwork that really matters.

April is quite a busy time of year for high schoolers. Tickets are being sold for prom, everyone is already prepping for finals (if they have any) and girls are going prom dress shopping with their BFFs. However, it is not all fun and games for juniors because April also means it’s time for the ACT.

Taking the ACT in high school — I remember it like it was yesterday. All the times our teachers spent trying to prepare us when I would rather be reading “The Great Gatsby.” We probably did the practice tests one time, and that was it. We were told that every junior had to take the ACT, otherwise they would not be allowed to graduate.

Most of us have been taking a form of standardized testing ever since we were in elementary school. The first tests determined how well the school was performing, and the ACT and SAT determined if we were getting into a good college.

Recently, Northern Illinois University dropped the use of standardized test scores in general admission and merit scholarship decisions, starting with any high school student graduating in 2021.

When I was in high school, I had at least a 3.0 GPA, was very active in all four years of choir and even became an officer my senior year. But when it came time to apply for colleges, I didn’t bother to apply anywhere except Elgin Community College, where I would eventually get my associate degree. Why? Because my ACT scores were not the greatest.

I am not saying that I hated my community college experience. It was one of the best times of my life: I made some of my best friends there, I found my passion and I saved a lot of money, as well. I then transferred to NIU in the fall of 2018. They accepted me even though I didn’t have the greatest grades in math and science, but I did the best in writing, art, music and computers.

However, I wish the ACT wasn’t required for admission. Northern Illinois University (NIU) is only the first school in Illinois to drop the standardized test from their requirements, although many other schools have already dropped the requirement. Even two Ivy League schools decided that it wasn’t necessary for graduate school. So why aren’t all schools taking charge and ending this horrid tradition?

Come on Illinois — drop that crazy requirement.

There are students that don’t test well but also do well in their classes. Why can’t that be the determining factor? Everyone deserves a shot at going to college, and why should students be restricted to where they can go.

The ACT also takes away from learning anything in class that year. Second semester of my junior year, it was mostly about the ACTs, so instead of reading “The Great Gatsby,” we watched the movie. I don’t mind movies, but I am also in the small population that likes to read the books as well. When I go to school, I go there to learn, not learn about a test that I am never going to use in my future life.

The students who struggle the most are the students with disabilities. While there are accommodations available for students, some of them are not the best test takers, and they are already facing stress with their classes. So why put more pressure on them to do good on these tests? Although accommodations are required by the ADA for every test, students don’t always receive the aid that they are supposed to be getting.

I found out a lot of students in my special education classes didn’t even go to college. Only a few of us ended up attending. It seems as though standardized testing is singling out students who have any kind of disability by sending the message that they aren’t smart enough for college, even if they do well in their classes and are very involved with their schools.

I think the grades should determine if that student needs to take general education classes or not, not the ACT scores. If they saw my English grades alone, I probably wouldn’t have needed to take general education English at ECC.

I heard some friends brag about their high scores, making me feel like a complete idiot. I was sad for a few days. I thought after the scores came out that I wasn’t going to get the future that I wanted, and I wasn’t the only one either.

That was in high school and now, looking back, I am glad I didn’t do great on the tests because if I did, I probably never would have gone to ECC, where I met some amazing people and experienced some awesome new things. Not to mention, I also would have had to pay so much back in student loan debt too.

A student’s talents and knowledge are not easily defined by a test score. I know that I am good in English. I may have only gotten an 18 on the ACT, but that was only one portion, and the topic of the essay was confusing and I just wrote anything.

Tests do not show where a student stands. Where it shows is the work that they do in class, the effort they put into class projects and how they write their essays. That is what should count more in college admissions — not tests that are just another number.

Sure, people can get tutors, but what about those who may not be able to afford them? This is why kids from poor families tend to do worse than those from families who may have more money.

No student should ever be defined by their scores. Everyone has something to offer in this world, and at the end of the day, a test score is just a number, not something that is going to determine your whole future.

Writer Profile

Lisa Lilianstrom

Northern Illinois University
Journalism, minor in Communications

Everyone deserves to have their stories heard. Writer, student, artist — plans to one day travel the world with the love of my life.

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