Tue 23 Aug 2016
From The Boston Globe:
Several top New England colleges have joined a growing number of schools nationally that no longer require applicants to submit scores from SAT subject tests, saying the specialized exams lend little insight into students’ readiness and can work against low-income and minority students.
In the past year, Amherst College, Dartmouth College, and Williams College all have dropped the subject test requirement, taking a lead from Columbia University, which announced the new policy this spring. Duke University and Vassar College also no longer require the tests, often called SAT II.
Did the College announce this change? Was there campus discussion? Not that I saw. I am indifferent. What do readers think?
“We want to make the application process as fair to all students as possible,” said Mary Dettloff, a spokeswoman for Williams College. “We felt like we weren’t getting any valuable data from the SAT II scores to help us.”
Current Williams requirements here. The easiest way to make the application “fair” would, obviously, to not require any information — no SAT subject tests, no AP scores, no high school grades, no nothing. Just choose applicants randomly! As the mirror on the wall reports, that would be the “fairest application process of them all!”
A handful of elite schools, including Harvard and MIT, still require SAT subject tests. …
Meanwhile, dropping standardized test requirements can help colleges in several other ways. Schools tend to receive more applications, which can drive down their percentage of accepted students, making them seem more selective. Colleges also profit from the additional application fees.
Although many experts believe the tests will eventually disappear, schools like MIT find them useful and have no plans to drop the requirement.
MIT officials see the exams as an equalizer, a way to consistently measure students from different high schools. Harvard officials said the same thing.
The tests are undoubtedly useful, especially in looking at students from out-of-the-way high schools. At Williams, they were probably most used to distinguish among Academic Rating 1s and 2s. (Background here and here.) Key definitions:
verbal math composite SAT II ACT AP AR 1: 770-800 750-800 1520-1600 750-800 35-36 mostly 5s AR 2: 730-770 720-750 1450-1520 720-770 33-34 4s and 5s AR 3: 700-730 690-720 1390-1450 690-730 32-33 4s
Recall that most American AR 1s are accepted (and, allegedly, all legacy AR 1s) and many (half?) AR 2s. AR 3s are rejected unless they have a hook. So, this change hurts the student with high SAT II scores relative to her SAT I and AP scores and helps students with the opposite profile. How big is the magnitude of the change? I would be surprised if it changed the students in the class of 2021 by fewer than five students or more than 50.
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