Counterpoint: Should students be able to take one ACT section at a time?

Abraham Franchetti, Staff Writer

Earlier this year, ACT announced that starting in September 2020, students will be able to retake any of the ACT’s five sections without retaking the entire test. Although it may seem like a flashy perk, section retakes are really just a money-making scheme.

“I think that allowing students to retake certain sections individually will ease some of the stress put on them,” said sophomore Charles Bosworth.

While many students view this as a gift, it remains to be seen what the effect of this change will be. Section by section retakes introduce new problems and compound existing ones, like inequality in test-taking. Furthermore, it is unknown whether the ACT will retain its validity to colleges under these new rules. Up until this change, the ACT and SAT were virtually interchangeable, but now students may be forced to take the SAT when applying fro competitive schools.

For quite some time, many schools have used “superscoring” to evaluate multiple standardized test scores. Under this practice, a student’s best ACT or SAT scores are submitted to the college, and the college will use the best scores from each subsection in the admissions process. Who knows if colleges will continue to superscore the ACT? That would mitigate all of the benefits of section retakes.

Some may see the new ACT rules as akin to this practice of superscoring, but there are some distinctions. Under these new rules, a student can choose to take only one section of the test, and then use this score together with the four sections he or she took on a different testing date. The student who does this would be indistinguishable from a student who took the test only once. The advantage given by taking only one section at a time cannot be overstated. Now a college is unable to see if there was a dramatic drop in score in one section. A student taking only one section during the test has time to focus exclusively on one subject. The new rules may result in higher scores overall. This will almost certainly result in grade inflation and cost students more money. Increasing scores for the students who can afford to take the test five times will only worsen an existing problem.

Additionally, one of the fundamental skills tested by the ACT is stamina: students often have difficulty focusing for a 35 minute reading section after spending the previous two hours struggling through grammar and mathematics. However, section retakes allow students, if they can afford it, to take sections “fresh,” creating an unequal playing field.

One of the main problems in education today across America are the advantages given to economically fortunate students. These advantages appear in many different areas, from extracurriculars, to parental presence, to the availability of tutoring. An industry of tutors, consultants, and coaches thrive off of the anxiety of parents and their college-bound kids. This is true in a town like Port Washington, and there are several private tutoring centers just down Campus Drive.

“I think it’s concerning that some Schreiber teachers can get paid hundreds of dollars for independent tutoring when they should be accessible to everyone,” said freshman Ed Snow.

Private tutors are a lesser but similar tool to the massive Varsity Blues scandal which rocked America earlier this year. Being able to retake individual sections of the ACT furthers this problem. Now parents can pay for the test five separate times in an attempt to get the best score possible. Meanwhile, some families can barely afford to pay for these tests once.

“I don’t know how this can be solved, but it’s a shame that generations of American students will be subjected to this,” said sophomore Olivia Platt.

The end results of partial retakes remain to be unseen, as this policy won’t be implemented until early next year. Regardless, this seemingly unimportant change highlights some of the major flaws of the American education system. Including, moral hazards of college and how the private tutoring industry is taking advantage of anxious parents.