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SAT Cancels Tests in US and Abroad

The College Board, the organization that administers standardized tests, is discontinuing some tests and improving others.
The College Board, the organization that administers standardized tests, is discontinuing some tests and improving others.

The trend to deemphasize standardized tests in admissions decisions at U.S. colleges and universities moved ahead this week.

The College Board, the organization that administers the tests, said it will discontinue some and improve others. Subject tests such as biology, chemistry and world history, for example, will be discontinued in the United States but not abroad.

"We are no longer offering the subject tests in the U.S.," the College Board announced January 19. "Because subject tests are used internationally for a wider variety of purposes, we will provide two more administrations in May and June of 2021 for students in international locations."

Subject tests have been on the decline since they peaked in 2011.

"Most universities have eliminated Subject Test requirements, either making the Subject Tests optional or not considering scores at all," the website explained. "Overall, Subject Tests have played less and less of a role in admissions every year, except at the 50-60 most selective colleges in the country."

"In addition, the language Subject Tests were mainly being taken by native speakers, which didn't give colleges helpful information in making admissions decisions," College Board continued, "so colleges started to discount strong scores on those exams."

"Finally," tweeted high-school counselor Brittanie Davis in Indiana, accompanied with an applause emoji.

The importance and weight of these standardized tests has been debated for decades. Students who are strong test-takers and experience little anxiety while sitting for the hours-long exams say they are a show of aptitude and accomplishment.

Others say the test measures test-taking ability more than knowledge. The emphasis on science and math diminishes the importance of the arts or non-STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math).

Another argument against the tests is criticism that they lack educational equality. Many university applicants are handicapped if they cannot afford tutoring or better schools that teach to the test, a practice of classroom instruction that focuses on preparing students to answer the standardized test questions correctly, opponents say.

"Growing concerns about the SAT catering to more privileged and affluent students may also have factored into this decision," the College Board wrote on its website.

AP tests

Remaining at issue are Advanced Placement (AP) tests, where students take accelerated AP courses in high school that can substitute for required courses in a student's freshman year. Some students can save thousands of dollars by testing out of the freshman requirements. But not all high schools offer AP courses.

"Getting rid of these additional testing requirements may increase perceived accessibility in standardized testing," the College Board reported. However, "students also have unequal access to (AP) exams."

AP tests cost $95. The shuttered Subject Tests cost $30.

SAT essay

The College Board also decided to discontinue the optional SAT essay, which will be available through the June 2021 SAT administration.

"This decision recognizes that there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing. The tasks on the SAT Reading and Writing and Language tests are among the most effective and predictive parts of the SAT."

The essay is additional and optional to those tests.

"In my opinion, this is not the best move. These and the essay were optional ways of showing a student's growth or ability outside the standardized multiple choice," tweeted Victoria Saxe.

Students who are registered to take the SAT with essay this spring can cancel the essay portion without charge. The College Board said it will reach out to students directly regarding these changes.

Upcoming changes

The College Board also said it is committed to making the SAT a more streamlined, digital process.

"The pandemic has highlighted the importance of being innovative and adaptive to what lies ahead. We are committed to making the SAT a more flexible tool, and we are making substantial investments to do so."

The College Board said it plans to allocate seats that would have gone to those taking subject tests to students who wish to take the SAT, as well as be prepared to add to and create administrations in the fall if the pandemic continues to impact testing.

EducationUSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of State and offers information to applicants and students outside the U.S., have offered assistance through their offices.

If you are an international student, more information on how to register for the SAT can be found here.

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Senator draws attention to universities that haven’t returned remains

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, speaks with reporters as he walks to a vote on Capitol Hill, Sept. 6, 2023 in Washington.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, speaks with reporters as he walks to a vote on Capitol Hill, Sept. 6, 2023 in Washington.

More than 70 U.S. universities continue to hold human remains taken from Native American burial sites, although those remains were supposed to be returned 30 years ago.

Jennifer Bendery writes in Huffington Post that one senator has been using his position in an attempt to shame universities into returning remains and artifacts. (April 2024)

COVID forced one international student to go hungry

FILE - Masked students walk to the COVID-19 vaccination site at the Rose E. McCoy Auditorium on the Jackson State University campus in Jackson, Miss., July 27, 2021.
FILE - Masked students walk to the COVID-19 vaccination site at the Rose E. McCoy Auditorium on the Jackson State University campus in Jackson, Miss., July 27, 2021.

When Samantha (not her real name) enrolled in community college in the U.S., her family at home in South Africa scrimped and saved to support her.

But the COVID-19 pandemic hurt the family’s finances, and at one point Samantha had four on-campus jobs just to make ends meet. Many in the U.S. believe international students are wealthy sources of funding for universities, but stories like Samantha’s suggest otherwise.

Andrea Gutierrez reports for The World. (March 2024)

Tips for paying for a STEM degree as an international student

FILE - FILE - A visitor to the 21st China Beijing International High-tech Expo looks at a computer chip through the microscope displayed by the Tsinghua Unigroup project in Beijing, on May 17, 2018.
FILE - FILE - A visitor to the 21st China Beijing International High-tech Expo looks at a computer chip through the microscope displayed by the Tsinghua Unigroup project in Beijing, on May 17, 2018.

For US News & World Report, Melanie Lockert describes how to calculate the cost of a STEM degree, and where to find funding. (March 2024)

NAIA all but bans its transgender college athletes from women's sports

FILE - NAIA women’s basketball players gather after a game in St. Louis, Feb. 22, 2024. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the governing body for mostly small colleges, said Monday that transgender athletes would be all but banned from women's sports.
FILE - NAIA women’s basketball players gather after a game in St. Louis, Feb. 22, 2024. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the governing body for mostly small colleges, said Monday that transgender athletes would be all but banned from women's sports.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the governing body for mostly small colleges, announced a policy Monday that all but bans transgender athletes from competing in women's sports.

The NAIA's Council of Presidents approved the policy in a 20-0 vote. The NAIA, which oversees some 83,000 athletes at schools across the country, is believed to be the first college sports organization to take such a step.

According to the transgender participation policy, all athletes may participate in NAIA-sponsored male sports but only athletes whose biological sex assigned at birth is female and have not begun hormone therapy will be allowed to participate in women's sports.

A student who has begun hormone therapy may participate in activities such as workouts, practices and team activities, but not in interscholastic competition.

"With the exception of competitive cheer and competitive dance, the NAIA created separate categories for male and female participants," the NAIA said. "Each NAIA sport includes some combination of strength, speed and stamina, providing competitive advantages for male student-athletes. As a result, the NAIA policy for transgender student-athletes applies to all sports except for competitive cheer and competitive dance, which are open to all students."

There is no known number of transgender athletes at the high school and college levels, though it is believed to be small. The topic has become a hot-button issue for those for and against transgender athletes competing on girls' and women's sports teams.

At least 24 states have laws barring transgender women and girls from competing in certain women's or girls sports competitions. Last month, more than a dozen current and former college athletes filed a federal lawsuit against the NCAA, accusing the sports governing body for more than 500,000 athletes of violating their rights by allowing transgender women to compete in women's sports.

The Biden administration originally planned to release a new federal Title IX rule — the law forbids discrimination based on sex in education — addressing both campus sexual assault and transgender athletes. But earlier this year, the department decided to split them into separate rules, and the athletics rule now remains in limbo even as the sexual assault policy moves forward.

Hours after the NAIA announcement, the NCAA released a statement: "College sports are the premier stage for women's sports in America and the NCAA will continue to promote Title IX, make unprecedented investments in women's sports and ensure fair competition for all student-athletes in all NCAA championships."

The NCAA has had a policy for transgender athlete participation in place since 2010, which called for one year of testosterone suppression treatment and documented testosterone levels submitted before championship competitions. In 2022, the NCAA revised its policies on transgender athlete participation in an attempt to align with national sport governing bodies, following the lead of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

The three-phase implementation of the policy included a continuation of the 2010 policy, requiring transgender women to be on hormone replacement therapy for at least one year, plus the submission of a hormone-level test before the start of both the regular season and championship events.

The third phase adds national and international sport governing body standards to the NCAA's policy and is scheduled to be implemented for the 2024-25 school year on August 1.

There are some 15.3 million public high school students in the United States and a 2019 study by the CDC estimated 1.8% of them — about 275,000 — are transgender. The number of athletes within that group is much smaller; a 2017 survey by Human Rights Campaign suggested fewer than 15% of all transgender boys and transgender girls play sports.

The number of NAIA transgender athletes would be far smaller.

Humanities degrees are tougher sell for international students 

FILE - People walk near the campus center at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., Dec. 9, 2013.
FILE - People walk near the campus center at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., Dec. 9, 2013.

That’s the argument of one Princeton undergraduate from South Korea.

OPT, the government program that allows college students to work in the US for a short time after graduation without securing a work visa, is biased toward STEM degree holders.

As a result, many international students forego humanities, or choose tech or consulting jobs when their passions lie elsewhere.

Read Siyeon Lee’s argument in the Princetonian. (March 2024)

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