[At] the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the main event was William R. Fitzsimmons’s first public presentation of the findings of the Study of the Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admission.
Mr. Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions at Harvard, led a commission of college admissions officials who drafted the study, which challenges colleges and universities to examine their use of the SAT and ACT and to consider whether the benefits outweigh the disadvantages or whether they can make the tests optional for admissions.
The line formed early for Mr. Fitzsimmons’s panel, and with more than 1,000 people jockeying for a limited number of seats — a scene that brought to mind the college admissions process — the event was moved to the ballroom.
“It’s electrifying to both sides of the desk,” said Louis L. Hirsh, admissions director at the University of Delaware, “to counselors who are worried about the stresses that the SAT places on the kids, and from the college end, the people whom all of us respect are looking at a test that all of us use and asking all of us to be more thoughtful about how they use it and what role it plays in our admissions.”
Mr. Fitzsimmons, who took center stage along with the other members of the commission, tried to ease the fears of the ardent supporters of the standardized admissions tests, taking pains to say that the SAT had many advantages.
But he also affirmed what many of those present had been saying for years: that the SAT and other standardized admissions tests are “incredibly imprecise” when it comes to measuring academic ability and how well students will perform in college. He said colleges and universities needed to do much more research into how well the tests predict success at their individual institutions...
...There has been longstanding debate and concern about the impact of standardized testing on socioeconomically disadvantaged students, and the ballroom erupted in applause when Mr. Fitzsimmons called for an end to the use of “cut scores” to determine who qualifies for National Merit and other scholarships. The practice means that one student is rewarded while excluding another whose SAT score may be only a single point lower, Mr. Fitzsimmons said.
What that single point differential fails to take into account, he said, is the context: The two students may have “lived entirely different lives, had entirely different educational opportunities and entirely different access to test prep.”
The audience also applauded Mr. Fitzsimmons’s call for U.S. News & World Report to stop using SAT scores as part of its college rankings.
“At Harvard we get terrific students, and we turn out terrific students later on,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said. “Is that due to Harvard or is that due to the students to begin with? Who knows? There are fabulous institutions with relatively low test-score averages that are absolutely first rate, that take students from point A to point Z.”
He continued, “Educational quality has nothing to do, or very little to do, with actual average SAT scores.” ...
...Jeffrey Brenzel, the dean of admissions at Yale, said the report raised key questions for every college and university: “Are you using the tests in a responsible manner and in the way they were intended? Is your use of the test relevant to your particular institution’s mission? Are there alternatives?” ...
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
This from the New York Times: