Colleges are preparing for an admission cycle without a compulsory test (notice)

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What do President Trump and colleges and universities across the country have in common? They both think the tests are overrated.

Of course, they are talking about different types of testing. For the president, the test in question is the coronavirus test. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump said, “I personally think the tests are overrated.” In the same interview, he said: “I created the greatest testing machine in history. »Did he just claim to have created the Educational Testing Service?

At his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump confessed or joked that he ordered his “people” to slow down testing because testing could reveal people are sick with the virus. Several White House officials later claimed Trump’s confession was a joke, another example of his dry and mischievous sense of humor.

For college admissions offices, the tests that are overdone, at least for the coming year, are the SAT and ACT. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, also known as FairTest, has announced that more than half of the country’s colleges and universities will be optional for the 2020-21 admission cycle. This was before Harvard and Princeton Universities joined the list, making the Ivy League eight for eight by announcing optional testing policies for the coming year. According to FairTest, in the past two months, more than 200 colleges have opted for elective testing for at least the upcoming cycle.

And the others ? Taking an optional test for 2020-21 is clearly a trend. But when does a trend turn into a wave? Will admissions offices be able to continue to require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores for the next application cycle, or is the optional wave of testing too strong and coercive? Are colleges, like the teens they hope to enroll, sensitive to peer pressure?

The pressure may not come from peers, but rather from the public, or at least from the market. Earlier this spring, I spoke to an admissions dean at a liberal arts college who was considering adopting a voluntary testing policy. He wondered if there would be a tipping point once a number of institutions decided to go the voluntary test route. Would students decide that they are unwilling to apply to these outliers always requiring applicants to submit test results?

We may be getting to this point. I’m not a member of the “when Harvard itches everyone itches” school of thought, but when many of the country’s more selective colleges and universities, including all of Ivies, decided that the tests would be optional, Can the recalcitrant justify continuing to need tests? If places that make fine distinctions between highly qualified candidates decide they can do without the data point and triage tool provided by test scores, how can less selective institutions support that testing? are necessary ? I’m sure there are arguments for continuing to demand testing, but I don’t see any that are convincing.

The cancellation of test dates this spring means that test results for next year’s seniors won’t be as significant. The normal testing schedule and the psyche of the students were upset.

I have always advised students to test at least once in the spring of the junior year and once in the fall of the senior year. Assuming the SAT administration in August goes as planned, this will be the first opportunity most of my emerging seniors have had to take admissions tests.

The rest took the tests in the fall of their junior year, which I don’t recommend, because in my experience, the results of the fall junior year tests are almost never as high as those in the student will graduate in the spring or fall of the final year. . One potential benefit of the testing turmoil this spring could be the return of a January testing date, which faded when the College Board added August administration several years ago. January is a great first test date for juniors, and since the January administration was removed I have seen more of my students take the tests in the fall, not wanting to wait until March.

The compressed testing schedule puts more pressure on fall testing, which will lead to increased anxiety among students already worried about testing. This does not even take into account parts of the country where the supply of testing centers and seats does not meet the demand. At best, there is a legitimate discussion to be had about what the test results mean, and these are not the best terms.

If the test results are not as significant, good test results could be more valuable. The hidden motto of selective admission is that the rarer a talent or quality, the more valuable it is. Optional testing means that submitting test results becomes a choice, if not a strategy, for students. Colleges cannot penalize students who do not submit test scores, but neither will they penalize students who score and submit good results.

Elective-test colleges weren’t the only ones making the news last week. The same goes for blind colleges, colleges that don’t even consider test scores in the admissions process.

The term “blind test” is apparently a derivative of “blind-of-need” admissions policies that fail to take a student’s financial needs into account in decision-making. But just as there are institutions which are theoretically blind to need but which need to be aware, even to have a “glance” in the sidelines, I wonder if we will see the same thing happen with them. tests. Test peek, anyone?

The University of California system recently announced that it will phase out the use of SAT and ACT for California residents over the next five years. The UC will be an optional test for the next two years, followed by two years of blind testing as the university determines whether to develop its own standardized test or abandon testing altogether. Then June 17 American News and World Report announced that it would start ranking colleges with admission blind after categorizing them as “unclassified” since 2008.

The question is whether any of us should care. The US News Rankings can be one of the few things in the college admissions world that is more overrated than test scores. US News asserts that “the change is intended to help prospective students and their families experience the academic quality of all schools.” There is valuable comparative data collected by US News, but the one thing rankings based on external metrics can’t begin to measure is the most important thing – what’s happening in the classroom. It is like classifying churches without regard to spirituality.

Rather than starting to blindly rank 205 colleges and universities, US News would have done a greater service to the students and to all of us by going the other way and moving the 1,500 colleges currently classified as “unclassified”.

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