Evidence Soup
How to find, use, and explain evidence.

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Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The scores are in, and it's evidence-based management: 1, standardized-test industry: 0.

(Note to email subscribers: Some of you recently received a Soup of the Day message containing several Evidence Soup posts from earlier this year. This mix-up was caused by Feedburner, a usually stellar blog feed service. My apologies for the inconvenience.)

Some educators and students have been questioning the value of standardized U.S. college entrance examinations, believing they do a poor job of evaluating performance and representing an applicant's potential to succeed in college. Over the years, several schools have eliminated the tests from their application processes. But yesterday Wake Forest University (Raleigh, North Carolina) announced that it will no longer require applicants to submit an ACT or SAT score -- this is big, because more selective schools are joining the movement.

Wake Forest is the first U.S. News & World Report "top-30" University to drop the requirement (students still may submit scores if they want to). In its news release, admissions officials said "The decision was made after a careful consideration of recent research done at various universities. 'While many top-tier universities are increasing their reliance on standardized testing in the admissions process, recent research suggests that standardized tests are not valuable predictors of college success,' said Wake Forest Provost Jill Tiefenthaler, the university’s chief academic officer whose office oversees admissions. Some studies indicate performance on the SAT is closely linked to family income and education level, while others suggest a possible testing bias against certain minority students."

Highly regarded Smith College in Massachusetts recently made a similar policy change, saying that "Evidence of correlations between race, household income and test performance, along with the recognition that SATs may not be the best predictor of academic potential, prompt the decision." Mount Holyoke and the University of Texas at Austin have also joined the list.

Those who oppose mandatory entrance exams often cite the experience of Bates College in Maine, where standardized test scores have not been required for 20+ years. A recent NPR story quoted Wylie Mitchell, the dean of admissions there, as saying that "academic performance has not changed as a result of that decision." NPR also quoted Robert Schaeffer of Fair Test, who is a critic of SAT exams: "What it measures is how well you take the SAT."

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