Report of the Commission on the Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admission

Molly Kennedy

National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
September 2008

This long-anticipated report, the product of a blue-ribbon commission led by Harvard admissions director, William Fitzsimmons, evaluates the use of standardized tests in college admissions as predictive measures for a student's success in college--and finds them wanting. High school grades are better indicators of college readiness, argues the report's authors, while standardized test scores come in second. The Commission sees a future whereby "curriculum-based achievement tests" replace the SAT and ACT--assessments that would be developed through collaboration between colleges, secondary schools, and state and federal agencies. Existing examples that strike their fancy? Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and College Board Subject Tests; these, they argue, are more closely related to high school curriculum as well as immune to gaming via the test-prep industry. (We're not so sure about the latter.) As long-time supporters of rigorous, standards-based high school courses (such as AP and IB), as well as exit exams that are linked to college admissions standards (such as those being developed through the American Diploma Project), there's a lot here for us to like. Still, we can't help but notice the Commission's distain for testing in general. Let's imagine we implemented curriculum-based tests; how long until college counselors bemoaned these too, particularly if they show middle class and white students outperforming poor and minority teens? See for yourself here.

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