What one college discovered when it stopped accepting SAT/ACT scores — from by Valerie Strauss
We completely dropped standardized tests from our application as part of our new mission-driven admissions strategy, distinct from the “test-optional” policy that hundreds of colleges now follow. If we reduce education to the outcomes of a test, the only incentive for schools and students to innovate is in the form of improving test-taking and scores. Teaching to a test becomes stifling for teachers and students, far from the inspiring, adaptive education which most benefits students. Our greatly accelerating world needs graduates who are trained to address tough situations with innovation, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and a capacity for mobilizing collaboration and cooperation.
We weighed other factors in our decision:
- Standardized test scores do not predict a student’s success at our college.
- SATs/ACTs are strongly biased against low-income students and students of color, at a time when diversity is critical to our mission.
- We surveyed our students and learned not one of them had considered rankings when choosing to apply to colleges; instead they most cared about a college’s mission.
- Some good students are bad test takers, particularly under stress, such as when a test may grant or deny college entry. Multiple-choice tests don’t reveal much about a student.
- We’ve developed much better, fairer ways to assess students who will thrive at our college.
Our shift to a mission-driven approach to admissions is right for Hampshire College and the right thing to do. We fail students if we reduce them to a standardized test number tied more to their financial status than achievement. We fail students by perpetuating the myth that high standardized test scores signal “better” students. We are in the top one percent of colleges nationwide in the percentage of our undergraduate alumni who go on to earn advanced degrees – this on the strength of an education where we assess their capabilities narratively, and where we never, not once, subject them to a numerical or letter grade on a test or course.