Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Colleges and Standardized Tests

A headline in today's local paper pointed out that another high-ranking college has chosen to eliminate the SAT and ACT as a requirement. Does anybody else find it odd that colleges are placing less emphasis on standardized test results while K-12 schools rush to test more?


mmazenko said...

I don't see this ever happening on a large scale with major universities. And I am not sure there is anything terribly wrong with the ACT/SAT as "a factor." However, it certainly shouldn't be "the factor."

Anonymous said...

This to me seems like a college trying to penetrate a niche market of students with low SAT scores - the result of a specific business plan, but not part of a greater trend. Do you have better evidence that "colleges are placing less emphasis on standardized test results?"

Corey Bunje Bower said...

Sewanee is far from the first school to make the ACT/SAT optional. While none of the top 20 schools have done it, an increasing number of liberal arts colleges have been making the move over the past five years or so. I don't know the number off the top of my head, but I think it's passed the point where we could call it a fringe movement.

Roger Sweeny said...

There is a fairly cynical (or perhaps extraordinarily benevolent?) explanation.

To use American color terminology, blacks and browns do poorly on standardized tests, while whites and yellows do well. If you use test scores heavily, you won't have many blacks or browns. Correspondingly, you will be "over-represented" with whites and yellows.

People who run colleges and universities don't want that to happen. They very much don't want that to happen.

The University of Michigan had a fairly mechanical undergraduate admissions system that assigned points for test scores but also gave points for being black or brown. The Supreme Court struck that down in Gratz v. Bollinger (2003).

But in the companion case of Grutter v. Bollinger, it okayed the law school's admission system. That policy pretty obviously applied different standards to different colors. But the law school said they looked at the whole person and applied their expert judgment to determine who would contribute most to the class. The Court said that was okay.

The less your admissions process has to do with standardized tests, the easier it is to be on the legal side of the Grutter/Gratz line. Easiest is to eliminate them entirely.