Test preparation, the test-train, is a lucrative business as is the whole cottage industry around the university arms race. Independent college counselors are now hired by royalty and treated like rock-stars; there are endless learning centers, courses, lesson plans, tutors and coaches that charge beaucoup bucks to prepare kids -- outside regular school hours -- with the 'strategies' needed to take the SAT or its rival the ACT. There is the perceived problem that your perfect college is really hard to get into it. The reaction is one of growing panic from parents worried about the future, and the solution -- drum-roll, please -- is to improve the test! There has been a lot of media attention and debate about the SAT changes (yawn) which read as inconsequential as re-arranging the proverbial deck-chairs. Even 'The New York Times' keeps missing the larger point: Is the SAT/ACT losing their relevance?
Many universities think so because more than 850 of them have decided to ignore both the SAT/ACT in deciding whether to admit a teenager or not. These four-year undergraduate programs don't resemble Trump University either. About 200 are top public schools like Temple and highly selective, elite schools, including the likes of Brandeis, Bryn Mawr, Sarah Lawrence, and Wake Forest, with New York University offering applicants much more options when applying. Since the College Board announced its redesign, 50 universities switched to test optional. As one educator told me it's a matter of time before one of the Ivy Leagues decides to go test optional and when that happens, the other Ivies will likely follow.
So, parents and children, you do have a choice. You don't have to ride the test-train to pursue higher education. If you have a child who gets terrible scores on standardized tests (and this is obvious from a young age), no amount of pre-testing, practice testing, or tutoring on test strategies will turn your child into a strategic, analytical thinker who will suddenly score high on these things. You'll just get frustrated squeezing your precious square peg into a round hole or sad you have to leash your little tiger. You'll be teaching your child that something is wrong with it. You'll be teaching it a lesson that there is some kind of warped reward for doing activities that you have no skill for and make you miserable. So you have a choice to opt out. Spend the thousands you would've on the test-train and put it towards activities your child is talented with and likes to do. Ending the arms race starts here. You have choices. In a few years, you'll have even more.
Please check out FairTest.org to see its updated list of test-optional four-year colleges and universities http://fairtest.org/university/optional. Fairtest also has loads of advice for parents wanting to opt their children out of the merry-go-round of standardized tests from grades 3 through 12.