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Monday, December 17, 2012
Say Goodbye to Standardized Testing?
Are you one of those people that cringes at the sight of a scantron sheet? Do you bristle at the mention of test prep workshops? Hate talk of percentiles? Then this may be welcome news to you.
An increasing number of universities across the country are dispensing with the requirement of the SAT and ACT. I'm not talking about most big-name schools or the Ivies. Most of the institutions with a test-optional admissions policy are small, private colleges. Many of them, however, are amongst the top schools in the country. Think Colby, Bryn Mawr, Bowdoin.
To be fair, these colleges generally have a few things in common. They have small student populations. Bryn Mawr has about 1,700 students-including grad students. By comparison, UCLA has a student population of around 40,000. Smaller colleges have fewer applicants. Many have programs designed around smaller student bodies, with a greater expectation of personal attention and campus community.
Standardized tests certainly weed out the most and least gifted test takers, but fail to highlight the nuanced contours of most students in the middle. Standardized tests have been criticized for undervaluing right-brain strength. Results are often skewed along cultural, racial and gender lines in ways that belie their supposed strength as objective markers of intelligence.
College admissions isn't becoming any less competitive. We are unlikely to see standardized testing disappear any time soon. However, with the list of test-optional schools including more than 850 colleges, the trend can't be ignored. Some are prestigious, some aren't known for rigorous academics. Some offer general liberal arts curricula while others are arts or theater schools. Still, the list serves as a reminder that there is no one-size-fits all solution for every student.
The policy changes are proof that educational standards are fluid. It may be a welcome turn of the tide for many college hopefuls.
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