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High-Stakes Testing

More Colleges Backing off SAT and ACT Admissions Rule

A running tally shows that more than a thousand accredited, four-year colleges and universities now make their admissions decisions about all or many applicants without considering ACT or SAT test scores. The count is being maintained by FairTest, a non-profit that advocates against high-stakes testing in university admissions and public schools because of its potential negative consequences.

According to FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer, half of the top 100 liberal arts colleges listed by U.S. News & World Report show up on the test-optional list, as do most of the colleges and universities in New England and more than half in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The list covers colleges and universities in every state, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The fastest growth of institutions leaving the ACT and SAT "mandates," said Schaeffer, has occurred since the SAT was redesigned. Since then, "more than 100 colleges and universities reduced standardized exam requirements in that period."

Top-rated "test-optional" schools include American, Brandeis, George Washington, Wake Forest and Worcester Polytechnic. The latest to drop the admissions requirement was New Jersey's College of St. Elizabeth, which made sharing exams results optional last fall. As President Helen Streubert explained at the time, "We feel that academic achievement, particularly a student's overall grade point average and grades in core areas and teacher recommendations, are far better indicators of how a student will perform in college than the results of a standardized test."

"College and university leaders are sending a clear message," Schaeffer concluded. "Test scores are not needed to make sound educational decisions. It's time for K-12 policy makers to pay attention and back off their testing obsession for public schools."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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