Like most education-focused news outlets, the Hechinger Report claims that it “provides in-depth, fact-based, unbiased reporting.” Yet, somehow, it usually ends up dishing the same old formulaic propaganda supportive of education insiders.
Their October 9 story, “Questioning their fairness, a record number of colleges stop requiring the SAT and ACT,” is a case in point. For the thousandth time, they present the extreme anti-testing group, The National Center for Fair and Open Testing (a.k.a., FairTest) as an objective source of factual information and accept whatever they are told from other education institution insiders at face value. And, because they also spoke with some folk affiliated with one of the testing companies, they satisfied themselves that they got “the other side” of the story.
Yet, here are some very relevant points that this story, like almost all media stories on college admission testing, leaves out:
1. Whereas college admission test scores are correlated with socioeconomic status (SES), so are most of the other factors considered by admission directors. High school grade point average (GPA) is at least as strongly correlated. Extracurricular activities, recommendations, and writing samples are likely more strongly correlated with SES. Therefore, getting rid of college admission testing will not benefit lower SES applicants in general, and will hurt the chances of the “diamonds in the rough” that the tests are designed to help.
2. By dropping the admission test requirement, colleges raise their average admission test scores in competitive rankings, such as those of U.S. News & World Report. That’s because it’s the applicants with the lowest scores who choose not to report them. Applicants take the tests first to see how well they do before they decide to report them or not.
3. FairTest has been declaring a dramatic rise in the number of test-optional colleges for decades. Yet, over the same time period, the number of college admission tests taken has risen substantially.
4. Included in FairTest’s list of test-optional colleges are bible colleges, pilot schools and other focused vocational programs, and many colleges that make test scores optional only under special circumstances.
Ever a defender of standardized testing, Richard Phelps cherry picks data, offers misleading arguments, recyclesdebunked canards, and distorts critics’ position to advance his cause. For example:
– Research by Saul Geiser and others using comprehensive data about applicants to the University of California concludes that high school GPA is much less strongly correlated with SES than test scores are.
– According to the head of U.S. News’ annual rankings, Robert Morse,going ACT/SAT optional neither raises nor drops a school’s position on average. In fact, U.S. News punishes schools that do not report scores from most of their applicant: https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/college-rankings-blog/articles/2016-03-30/how-us-news-accounts-for-test-optional-colleges-in-our-rankings
– As the College Board itself admits, the primary reason for the recent increase in the number of students taking the SAT is the fact that many states now require the test be administered to all high school students.
– Yes, FairTest includes all accredited, bachelor-degree granting institutions in our test-optional database (https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional). So do the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Set and the College Board guidebook, on which we relay. In fact, more than half of the nation’s top-ranked liberal arts colleges are ACT/SAT optional (http://www.fairtest.org/sites/default/files/Optional-Schools-in-U.S.News-Top-Tiers.pdf)