Beginning this fall, high-school students across the country will be required to show photo identification in order to register to take the SAT or the ACT. TIME magazine reports that these photos will be printed on the students’ admission tickets to testing locations and will be sent with students’ scores to high schools and colleges. The testing services believe that the new photo requirement will help reduce the number of students that cheat on the tests. But the requirement does more harm than good. The new photo requirement adds another discriminatory aspect to an already unfair standardized testing system.
The photo requirement was implemented in response to a cheating ring that involved a college sophomore and several high-school students in Long Island, New York. Sam Eshaghoff, who attended the University of Michigan as a freshman and transferred to Emory University for his sophomore year, took the tests for at least six students from Great Neck North High School at a cost of $1,500 to $2,500 per student, ABC News reported in November, 2011.
While the cheating scandal last year was reprehensible and should never happen again, it’s more important to consider how the addition of photos to students’ college applications would affect college admission officers’ judgments of the applicants. Colleges haven’t previously asked for photos as a part of the admissions process, so it doesn’t seem appropriate to start asking for them now. Photos of the applicants could lead to unfair admissions processes for all those seeking admission, especially since only a small fraction of the pool of applicants consider cheating.
The fact that the cheating scandal occurred in the first place demonstrates the enormous importance placed on the SAT and ACT in the college admissions process. If students are willing to pay someone else to take the tests for them in order to receive a higher score, then there are serious flaws in the process. Two tests should not have so much power in determining a student’s academic future after high school.
Recent evidence also shows that high SAT or ACT scores do not necessarily determine academic success. Cindy Babington, vice president for student services at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., told The New York Times in February that when the university’s institutional research department examined factors that correlated with academic success, “the one thing that made no difference whatsoever was standardized test scores.”
Also, organizations such as The Posse Foundation are working to give students with lower standardized test scores the opportunity to attend elite colleges. According to The New York Times, Posse Scholars enjoy a high college graduation rate and impressive academic progress in spite of a 1,050 median combined SAT score.
Students’ résumés, essays and high-school grades already provide a clear representation of the particular students’ abilities. SAT and ACT scores should not have so much influence in the college admissions process. The new photo identification requirement could allow for more discrimination and unfair admission processes.