BRADENTON – A major study released Monday indicated that academic performance was not lower at ACT/SAT-optional colleges and universities. The test found that students who were admitted to schools without consideration of such standardized tests did as well academically as those entering under regular criteria. Critics of emphasizing standardized test scores for college admission and scholarships hailed the study as proof that such tests should not be such a large part of those processes.
"Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions" analyzed the records of 123,000 students at 33 institutions that allow students to be considered for admission without submitting ACT or SAT scores.
The tests, which have become an increasingly-critical part of the college admission process in recent decades, were originally thought to be an effective tool in recognizing students who had college potential, but did not stand out by way of other metrics. As college admission became more competitive, they were also seen as a hedge against grade inflation and a tool to distinguish between otherwise similar applicants.
However, as schools began to make them a larger part of the admission and scholarship equation, critics claimed that they were actually reducing access to higher education, by limiting opportunities for otherwise strong students who were either slow test takers (the exams are timed), or whose strengths were not best suited for such broad-based examinations.
“This landmark research shows that test-optional plans promote both equity and excellence,” said Robert Schaeffer, Public Education Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). “More colleges and universities now have the data to support dropping ACT/SAT requirements.”
FairTest is a leading player in the movement to de-emphasize admissions test scores. The group’s website lists more than 800 test-optional four-year schools. The database includes more than 150 institutions ranked in the top tiers of their respective categories.
The report also found that test-optional admission is particularly valuable for first-generation, minority, immigrant, rural students and learning-disabled students; and that high school grades are a much stronger predictor of undergraduate performance than standardized test scores.
The schools analyzed includes private colleges, public universities, minority serving institutions and art institutes. The study is online here.
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