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ERIC Number: EJ1062726
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Reference Count: 12
For Tests That Are Predictively Powerful and without Social Prejudice
Soares, Joseph A.
Research & Practice in Assessment, v7 p5-11 Sum 2012
In Philip Pullman's dark matter sci-fi trilogy, there is a golden compass that in the hands of the right person is predictively powerful; the same was supposed to be true of the SAT/ACT--the statistically indistinguishable standardized tests for college admissions. They were intended to be reliable mechanisms for identifying future trajectories, not unlike a meritocratic fortune telling device. In Pullman's novels, the compass works; however in the real world, the predictive accomplishments of the SAT/ACT are sadly less dramatic. This country has labored long, misdirected by an old-compass admissions system, designed in the heyday of eugenics, which worked more effectively to exclude social "undesirables" than to include those who were academically fit. In the last two decades, however, nearly a third of four-year-degree-granting institutions have gone "test-optional" breaking in part or whole with the old-compass camp. New tools, often called non-cognitive tests, which statistically outperform previous tests and do so without transmitting social disparities, have been used by thousands of students at universities as diverse as Tufts, DePaul, and Oklahoma State. Today, there are good reasons to be optimistic about the progress being made in the real world. In this article, the author discusses the downfalls of SAT/ACT tests. Research has shown that these tests are less predictive than the high-school record, add little value, are redundant with information provided by the high school transcript, are discriminatory--test score disparities by gender, race, and family income, and include racial bias or gender bias in the question selection. In place of these tests, the author calls for higher education admissions tools worthy of the 21st century. He presents evidence that private colleges in particular are best served by going "test-optional." In their statistical simulation, private colleges got more racial and SES (socioeconomic status) diverse and academically stronger students, as judged by high school grades and AP exam scores, by going test-optional. Public universities, on the other hand, did best by an admissions policy they dubbed "don't ask, don't tell," where the institution would not even look at test scores. State universities got academically stronger students, and more social diversity when they admit without any reference to test scores.
Descriptors: Aptitude Tests, College Entrance Examinations, Educational Benefits, Barriers, Predictive Validity, Educational Discrimination, Social Bias, Scores, Standardized Tests, Gender Discrimination, Racial Discrimination, Family Income, Racial Bias, Gender Bias, Test Items, Student Evaluation, Admission Criteria, College Admission
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A