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Learning Curve

SAT gets the rejection letter from Hampshire College

Dan Abendschein Jun 19, 2014

You’re a high-school senior applying to a competitive college where the SAT and ACT are optional.  You want to  skip the test, but your inner nag says, “if you don’t submit your scores, you’re not getting in.”

Starting in the fall, Hampshire College in Amherst, MA,  won’t look at your scores, even if you do submit them. Not for admissions, or to evaluate students for scholarships. The small, liberal-arts college used to make test scores optional.

It was hardly alone. Since 2005 the list of schools switching to test-optional admissions keeps growing. There are 150 top- tier schools on the list now.

But scrapping standardized tests completely can come with a cost.  Sarah Lawrence College in New York, stopped collecting SAT scores in 2005 from applicants, but went back to doing it in 2012. Without those stats, it was removed from the U.S. News & World Report college rankings.

In explaining their decision, Hampshire administrators went for the well-worn arguments about the tests’ bias against low-income and disadvantaged students.  Administrators also pointed to what they believe is an over reliance on tests, in general, as a means of evaluation:

At Hampshire, students receive detailed evaluations from professors rather than letter grades. Classroom discussions, written work, and projects are evaluated. But not, according to the school, “ through the use of “tests” in the traditional sense.”

Hampshire’s move comes not long  before the debut of a revamped SAT  in 2016. The new  test will put more focus on demonstrating knowledge and skills that the College Board —the test’s creator—believes are most important for college and career readiness.

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