While gratifying, this year’s rush to test-optional among colleges with significant differences in size, mission, selectivity, and location has even the most dedicated advocates scratching their heads.
Since last spring, ten colleges and universities have announced plans to decrease or entirely eliminate the role of standardized testing in admissions decisions made by their institutions. The most recent, Plymouth State University, is the fourth large public university to go test optional this summer. Old Dominion University (ODU), Temple University and Montclair State University are the other three.
And openly exploring routes for a switch to test-optional, the University of Puget Sound has added two optional questions to its Common App Writing Supplement that the admissions office hopes will help inform a decision to drop test score requirements in the future.
When asked why this year and why now, Bob Schaeffer, public education director at FairTest, replied, “I believe there are two major reasons for the surge in announcements of test-optional policies this summer: the cumulative impact of the successful experience at other schools that have dropped admissions test requirements, particularly as summarized by Bill Hiss' important report, and a recognition by admissions leaders that the ‘major overhaul’ of the SAT promised by the College Board does nothing to address its fundamental flaws (predictive validity, fairness, susceptibility to coaching).”
For nearly three decades, FairTest has worked to end the misuses and flaws in testing policies that fail to promote “fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial evaluation of students, teachers, and schools.”
Although the decision to go test-optional involves a little risk-taking and a firm belief that it’s the right thing to do, there are many reasons colleges make the decision to align with FairTest and decide not to use the ACT or SAT in admitting some or all applicants.
And according to Bob Schaeffer, as the test-optional movement has grown, more schools are developing their own “unique” approach to testing. Consistent with the belief that one-size-fits-all rules make no sense when it comes to requiring applicants’ ACT/SAT results, FairTest believes colleges and universities should develop admissions policies that mesh with their missions and the type of students they want to attract.
These policies include limiting test-optional to certain GPA’s or rank in class as well as asking for requesting additional writing and/or personal interviews in lieu of scores. A handful of colleges have taken more of a mix-and-match approach by allowing students to submit results from several different tests including SAT Reasoning, ACT with Writing, SAT Subject Tests, AP exams, or IB.
To understand the thinking behind some of the decisions made in recent months, here are quotes from statements released by five of the newest members of the test-optional team (the other five are Emmanuel College, Hampshire College, Hofstra University, ODU, and Wesleyan University):