Colleges Turn Away from SAT, ACT
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 11, 2013 02:10
Due to questions about the accuracy of aptitude tests such as the SAT and the ACT, some universities are seeking other ways of evaluating applicants’ abilities.
Starting this fall, Bard College is giving high school seniors a way to redeem poor grades and worse test scores through writing four 2,500-word research papers. If professors at the university give the papers at least a B-plus grade, students can be accepted.
“It’s kind of declaring war on the whole rigmarole of college admissions and the failure to foreground the curriculum and learning,” Bard President Leon Botstein told The New York Times. “You ask the young person: Are they prepared to do university-level work?”
In particular, Botstein expressed doubt about whether tests or grades can accurately reflect a student’s potential. Rather, they often reflect a student’s ability to successfully self-market. Bard spokesman Mark Primoff did not respond to other requests for comment.
Georgetown Dean of Admissions Charles Deacon, however, disagreed with Botstein’s premise and said that the university has no plans to adopt any similar initiatives.
“We’ve tried to use admissions ratings or counselor ratings, but it’s not quantifiable to predict results,” Deacon said. “It can also be utilized as justification for admitting athletes or students with legacies without having them to report their scores.”
Deacon also questioned whether Bard has ulterior motives, since eliminating SAT/ACT requirements could potentially increase applicant numbers and project higher selectivity, despite the amount of work involved with writing research papers.
Bard’s new application standards, however, were implemented after the National Association for College Admission Counseling encouraged universities to eliminate standardized testing from their admissions requirements in 2008, particularly because of an alleged bias toward affluent students.
According to College Board’s 2012-2013 testing report, students from families earning less than $20,000 annually averaged a score of 1326, while those from families earning more than $100,000 averaged 1619.
“A lot of the college application process is about if students have been trained to test well, and if they have been trained to write well,” said Kristin Collins, D.C. regional director for Strive for College Collaborative, a group that prepares low-income students for the SAT and the college application process. “If you are talking about low-income students, they have not been set up to succeed in the way that other students have.”
Regardless of financial situations, the College Board also reported that for the last five years, 57 percent of high school seniors have not hit the benchmark score of 1550 that allegedly deems whether a student is prepared for college. According to the College Board, this correlates with a 65 percent probability of earning at least a B-minus average as a freshman in college. Students who receive at least a 1550 are more likely to enroll in and complete a four-year college degree program.
In Washington, D.C., students have historically tested well below the national average. In the last five years, the average score for D.C. students has consistently been among the bottom two averages nationwide. Although D.C. students showed small signs of improvement in the last testing cycle, the average score of 1200 was still below the national average of 1400.
In addition to the socioeconomic factors at play, several experts have alleged that both college admissions and standardized tests do not accurately judge a student’s ability; rather, they seem to emphasize achievements.
For example, College Board President David Coleman has suggested that the Common Application to replace the personal statement with an analytical essay.
“If an essential requirement of success is to make an argument and write analytically, then why wouldn’t the admissions essay ask for that?” Coleman said to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Deacon also emphasized the drawbacks of the Common App, pointing to Georgetown’s continued reliance on its own application system.
“We know scores paint only a small picture of the student,” Deacon said. “That’s why we want to get to know students better through our personal Georgetown essays and interviews. We want students to directly communicate to us and not through a one-size-fits-all essay for the Common App.”
The College Board Communications Office declined to comment beyond its publically available press releases and reports.