Florida tends to have an affinity for the dramatic.
As of today, Oct. 20., 2020, Florida, is the only state that has yet to drop the requirement for high-stakes testing in their higher-education public school system for fall 2021 applications.
This means any high school student with the intention of attending a public four-year university in the Sunshine State must submit an official test score from either the ACT or SAT.
The major implication?
A decline in applications to Florida public colleges and more students applying elsewhere.
In any given year, submitting a high-stakes test score along with a student’s application would’ve been a requirement for every school in the nation. Still, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the scheduled test dates for the exams were canceled nationwide and continue to be in highly-affected states.
Traditionally, the ACT or SAT exams that “attempt to measure college readiness and predict future academic success” is taken late junior year and early senior year for most high school students who want to attend a four-year university. The score, coupled with a student’s extracurricular activities, academic success in high school, and college application, are the determining factors for acceptance to a college.
Although the score one earns from the exam is not the tell-tale sign of automatic admittance or deny, it is a metric that heavily influences admissions offices around the country to make a decision regarding a student’s acceptance.
According to FairTest, The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, every state has incorporated a test-blind or test-optional rule for public universities except Florida.
The National Association for College Admission Counseling has the following statement on their website, “Due to the cancellation of SAT and ACT testing dates, more than 1,450 US colleges and universities announced they are moving to a test-optional policy, and more will surely follow. By going test-optional, institutions are making a definitive statement that they will not need test scores to make admission decisions this year.”
On the other hand, test-blind means the colleges will ignore any test score submitted with an application so that it has no positive or negative effect on an individual’s chances.
Coincidentally, high-profile schools in the state, such as Florida State University, University of Florida, and the University of Central Florida, have all reported a decline in applications for the 2021 fall semester.
You connect the dots.
Florida state universities boast some of the nation’s highest undergraduate enrollments thanks to its favorable year-round climate, campus sizing, and program selection.
Those numbers have a grand impact on the local economy and the funding an institution can receive from the state.
But this pivotal ruling is up to the Florida Board of Governors. So far, the board has done nothing aside from encouraging state schools to push back admission deadlines to allow for more applications.
The problem with pushing back admissions deadlines is that it solves only a handful of the disproportionately affected students’ futures.
For context, a high school junior in Florida tends to graduate in the months of May-June of the following year. Most students who plan on applying to schools must apply by the Nov. 1. deadline of their senior year; therefore, a student will attempt to take the standardized exam at least one time before the summer of their senior year and another one to two times sometime before the deadline in the fall of their senior year.
This year, exams were being canceled as early as March by the College Board. This timeframe would place most applicants in the “sweet spot” for their first attempt. Fast forward to October, and many exams are still being canceled well into the final stretch for now-seniors to take their final attempts.
While some testing locations have resumed the exams, many are struggling to do so as a result of county-based pandemic numbers.
Some students have gone to extreme lengths of driving hours across the state to the nearest open testing center to get their attempts in. However, this is not a possibility for every family, with many citing the financial burden of losing out on work or paying lodging to take a paid exam in another county that isn’t even a requirement in 49 other states. This dilemma disproportionately affects low-income families.
Families are imploring the board to rethink their decision on the test requirement with petitions, phone calls, and emails pouring in from all over the country.
Petitions like this one on Change.org, have been popping up all over the internet as a plea for officials to reconsider the negative implications of the state requirement.
The list of schools that do not require the SAT or ACT in their application process can be found here.
FairTest has long been known for its tracking of colleges that do not require the SAT or ACT as part of its admission process. Among the schools added to that list during the pandemic were elite private colleges and some Ivy-League schools that vowed to suspend the requirement for exams through 2021 temporarily.
Florida yet again has found itself in a position that could potentially jeopardize its education system and hamper its ability to recruit and lure students in the future.
If you would like to sign the petition to make Florida join the other test-optional states, click here.
Click here to read about Gov. Desantis’ ruling that the state will preempt local governments from imposing pandemic restrictions on restaurants and he will propose a bill of rights for college students to party. Yes, you heard right. He is fighting for student’s right to party.
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William is a South Florida native with professional experience writing at the collegiate and national news outlet level. He loves fishing, playing soccer and watching sports in his spare time and is a fan of all South Florida teams.