By: Patrick O'Connor Ph.D
School counselors report that their summers seem to be getting smaller and smaller. That may be the case, but some pretty big news occurred on the standardized testing front during the few weeks counselors were off the clock. These changes affect everything from college applications to K-12
assessment, so let's catch up:
Colleges Drop Writing Test Requirement In addition to the traditional
multiple choice testing formats, both the ACT and SAT have offered students
the chance to receive a Writing score by staying after the other sections
are complete and putting together a writing sample based on a prompt. The
Writing test is offered for an additional fee, and can stretch the testing
day near, if not over, the five hour mark for some students.
Critics have long questioned if either Writing test really told the colleges
all that much-and it looks like the colleges were asking themselves that
question this summer. That's when a remarkable number of college announced,
seemingly spontaneously, that they would no longer require the Writing test
when students apply for admission. Some of the colleges cited the extra
cost as being burdensome on low income students, while others seemed to
acknowledge that a writing sample students have produced in about 30 minutes
doesn't reflect the process, or product, of college-level writing.
This leaves the number of colleges requiring the Writing test to about 15.
Look for them to reconsider their policies by next fall.
Subject Tests Also Falling Out of Use A number of colleges also dropped
their use of SAT Subject Tests, the one-hour exams designed to measure what
students know about specific topics taught in school (History, Biology,
etc.) Since most colleges requiring Subject Tests also require the ACT or
the regular SAT, it's a safe bet that this reduction in testing is based in
part on the cost of the extra testing.
This also brings the number of colleges requiring Subject Tests to about 13,
with 9 of those colleges making up the University of California system.
This makes it more than likely that one meeting of the UC Board of Trustees
is all that's keeping the Subject Tests to go the way of the dodo bird, New
Coke, and campaign finance reform.
University of Chicago Breaks Away Access and opportunity were the clear
reasons The University of Chicago announced its plans this summer to become
a test optional school. Once considered a ploy to increase applications,
test-optional schools now cite data-based evidence showing SAT or ACT scores
gave few additional insights into applicants to their schools.
Chicago's announcement is notable, since it is the most high profile college
to go test optional. While their announcement hasn't led to similar
decisions from Ivy League or Ivy-like colleges, keep an eye out a few years
from now, if Chicago's student profile is more diverse and just as strong as
in years past.
K-12s Going Test Optional? Debate over the merits of test-optional college
admissions continue, but the idea seems to be spreading. Politico reports
that the US Department of Education is offering states money to review their
statewide testing program, and come up with "more innovative exams." While
the call for proposals suggests the goal is for states to develop new tests,
it wouldn't be unreasonable for a state to use this opportunity to develop a
research-based assessment that looks more like a portfolio than a
paper-and-pencil exercise, a common practice for test-optional colleges.