Forget The SAT: Universities Should Try This Instead
by Aviva Legatt
Contributor Education; Faculty University of Pennsylvania and The Wharton School. I feature stories on impactful leadership in college admissions and higher education. University Testing
In 2019, 80% percent (approximately 138,000) University of California applicants took the SAT. Last week’s announcement that the University of California system is dropping the SAT and ACT from admissions requirements for in-state students marks a watershed moment in college admissions. Here are the likely scenarios ahead.
Use of Performance Assessment Instead of Standardized Testing
Less than one week after the University of California announced its test phasing initiative, which includes development of its own standardized test, the Reimagining College Access (RCA) initiative hosted a webinar, “Beyond Standardized Tests: Using Performance Assessment in College Admissions.” RCA’s activities include piloting the use of SlideRoom for students to share portfolios with several institutions and conducting research about how performance assessments can help colleges and universities gain insight on students’ abilities beyond test taking, such as “collaboration, problem-solving, and communication.”
As I previously reported, both colleges and companies are using performance assessment to predict who gets accepted and who gets hired. Christie Barnes, author of New York Times-acclaimed books and founder of College Need to Know believes that the SAT and ACT are outmoded ways of evaluating college readiness and potential to succeed in the workforce. “They are not the metric of career success in the Technology Age, of a gig economy, highly skilled, with rapid innovation being driven by ‘agile’ planning and upskilling.” There remains a question about whether or not these tests predict success—not only in college but on the job market.
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In line with performance assessment, Ibrahim Firat, Chief Educational Consultant of Firat Education predicts that the possibility that the University of California system and others could replace the SAT and ACT with an assessment like the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), which is designed to measure student learning.
As colleges consider whether or not to use standardized tests and performance assessments, they need to consider a balance between efficiency and effectiveness of the admissions evaluation. Standardized tests are an heuristic to make a quick assessment of one candidate relative to another while performance assessment requires more time and effort to evaluate capstone and portfolio materials..
There is also a question about the bias of standardized tests, particularly on the SAT and ACT. As I previously reported, a lawsuit filed in late 2019 claimed that the SAT and ACT should be illegal to use in California based on the grounds that the tests are biased and cannot meaningfully measure the potential for student success. Michael P. Toothman, an educator at the University of California—Riverside applauds the move by University of California as a way to reduce bias, noting that “ACT/SAT performance is a poor predictor of college success. I hope that this decision improves equity and provides more opportunity for less-affluent yet gifted students.”
Others are more skeptical of the University of California’s plans to launch its own examination. Adrian Ridner, CEO and Co-founder at Study.com believes that the UC’s move goes against the goal of increasing access, and reducing bias since a new test can “increase the burden for [students] because of test prep materials, money and support needed to take and prepare for them.”
Luke Skurman, CEO of Niche, raises the question of if a standardized test needs to exist at all. “There is a lot of work to be done to increase access and eliminate bias when it comes to standardized testing.”
The Covid-19 crisis opens the opportunity for universities to review their vision and process for evaluating and selecting students, looking squarely at issues of implicit bias. In seeking alternatives to assess student performance, universities have the chance to create a more equitable and compassionate college admission process. This combination of images shows college campuses, clockwise from top left, Georgetown University, ... [+] ASSOCIATED PRESS