The Elimination of Testing in Admissions Doesn’t Create Equity

The potential elimination of the SAT and ACT in college admissions in the years to come does not, in itself, even the playing field (photo credit: Bryan Y.W. Shin).

The National Association for College Admission Counseling, an organization to which we’re a member, has a listserv in which college admissions officers, high school counselors, and private college counselors among others exchange emails. And what seems like just about every day, a gentleman by the name of Bob Schaeffer, the Executive Director of an organization known as FairTest which is committed to ending the use of standardized testing in admissions, bombards our email inboxes announcing that such and such university is the latest school to go test-optional. McGillicuddy University is now test-optional…you read it here first! Thanks Bob. We’ve been hiding under a rock for the past year. We had no idea colleges were shifting to test-optional and we absolutely needed to know what was happening at McGillicuddy University today. Said no one ever!

But in addition to Bob’s emails being rather annoying if you ask us, what seems like his life’s mission — to eliminate the consideration of standardized testing in admissions decision-making — does not, in itself, foster equity in college admissions. If the SAT or ACT is eliminated, then admissions officers are simply going to rely more heavily on the other factors in admissions, like the quality of the student’s high school, the courses, the grades, the essays, the activities, and the letters of recommendation. You don’t think relying on the high school of a student or the rigor of their coursework favors the affluent? Of course it does! Come on now, Bob. Oh Bob.

In fact, the Stanford Graduate School of Education released a podcast on fairness in college admissions that highlights how the SAT and ACT are far from the only variables in admissions that favor the affluent. As reported by Stanford News, “Simply eliminating standardized tests might not diversify the incoming college class. ‘As colleges are interested in making changes to the way they do admissions, they need to be thinking carefully about how a reshuffling of the various components of the admissions package is going to lead to potentially new problems, and they also have an opportunity to really study the changes they make and ask whether these changes are yielding the results they want,’ [Assistant Professor Ben] Domingue says. ‘I think we just need to go into this with our eyes open.'” So, Bob, perhaps the next time you wish to flood our email inboxes with the announcement that Pockadillacutty University has gone test-optional, open your eyes.

 
 

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