A commission convened by some of the country's most influential college admissions officials is recommending that colleges and universities move away from their reliance on SAT and ACT scores and shift toward admissions exams more closely tied to the high school curriculum and achievement.
The commission's report, the culmination of a yearlong study led by William Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard, comes amid growing concerns that the frenzy over standardized college admissions tests is misshaping secondary education and feeding a billion-dollar test-prep industry that encourages students to try to game the tests.
A growing number of colleges, such as Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem and Smith College in Massachusetts, have made the SAT and ACT optional. And the report concludes that more institutions could make admissions decisions without requiring the SAT and ACT.
It encourages institutions to consider dropping admission test requirements unless they can prove that the benefits of such tests outweigh the negatives.
“It would be much better for the country to have students focusing on high school courses that, based on evidence, will prepare them well for college and also prepare them well for the real world beyond college instead of their spending enormous amounts of time trying to game the SAT,” Fitzsimmons said in an interview.
His group, convened by the National Association of College Admissions Counseling, also expresses concerns “that test scores appear to calcify differences based on class, race/ethnicity and parental educational attainment.” The report calls on admissions officials to be aware of such differences and to ensure that differences not related to a student's ability to succeed academically be “mitigated in the admission process.”
“Society likes to think that the SAT measures people's ability or merit,” Fitzsimmons said. “But no one in college admissions who visits the range of secondary schools we visit, and goes to the communities we visit – where you see the contrast between opportunities and fancy suburbs and some of the high schools that aren't so fancy – can come away thinking that standardized tests can be a measure of someone's true worth or ability.”