"Virtually No Difference" is the title of an article by Scott Jaschik posted on February 19th on Inside Higher Ed. (Check it out here: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/02/19/study-finds-little-difference-academic-success-students-who-do-and-dont-submit-sat.) A study of 123,000 students at 33 different colleges/universities that don't require ACT/SAT scores found that "...there is "virtually no difference" in the academic performance (measured in grades or graduation rates) of those who do and don't submit scores." Jaschik notes "...those students with low high school grades but high test scores generally receive low college grades, while those with high grades in high school, but low test scores, generally receive high grades in college." He also points to the fact that more schools - some quite rigorous and others less so - are becoming test optional. (Here is a list: http://fairtest.org/university/optional.)
Using a test as one method of evaluation is fast and easy. It's hard data in an environment that is difficult to measure - and of course no school will use it as the only selection criteria. But it is big business, supported unwittingly and/or unwillingly, by families and students who have plenty of financial stresses with respect to college admission and attendance without adding test-taking and prep course expenses. Hopefully colleges and universities will soon get to critical mass on this issue and focus on evidence-based indicators in the area of candidate selection. If entrance exams are truly not effective predictors of students' higher ed success, let's save students and families the time, effort, and money required to be one-and-done test-takers and focus on areas that improve real learning and clearly point to future achievement.
Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.