What, no testing?

October 22, 2015
Another beautiful fall day here at Gould. Photo credit: Dirk MacKnight.

Another beautiful fall day here at Gould. Photo credit: Dirk MacKnight.

As colleges compete for great students, some are becoming  more nuanced in their application process, using portfolios and becoming test optional. This is great news for many talented students.

Hampshire College pushed the envelope further by going “test blind,” not using testing in admissions for any student. This decision led U.S. News and World Report to “unrank” Hampshire; a gutsy move by the school.

I strongly encourage you to read the Washington Post story about Hampshire College and President Jonathan Lash’s comments about what happened after they made the “test blind” leap.

President Lash describes a host of improved admissions outcomes AND increased freedom to innovate once they were unshackled from the USNWR rankings. It’s great to see this sort of brave student-centered thinking in higher education.

A large 2014 study of students at 33 public and private universities titled “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions,” looked at the predictive quality of standardized tests for college success. Here are a few quotes:

“With almost 123,00 students at 33 widely differing institutions, the differences between [test] submitters and non-submitters are five one-hundredths of a GPA point, and six-tenths of one percent in graduation rates. By any standard, these are trivial differences.”

“College and university Cumulative GPAs closely track high school GPAs, despite wide variations in testing. Students with strong HSGPAs generally perform well in college, despite modest or low testing. In contrast, students with weak HSGPAs earn lower college Cum GPAs and graduate at lower rates, even with markedly stronger testing. A clear message: hard work and good grades in high school matter, and they matter a lot.”






2 Responses

  1. Avatar Sarah Ovenden says:

    I’m so glad to see you highlighting this issue! As A Gould ’81 alum, as well as a Hampshire ’85 alum I feel like I received the best of both worlds; the incredibly nurturing personal attention and encouragement to develop my own ideas that I received at Gould, then the challenge of designing my own curriculum and taking responsibility for my own learning at Hampshire. Because of my horrific grades and subpar test scores from Gould (what can I say, I was more interested in sneaking off to Bingham during Study Hall to sing show tunes with Anthony Hanson ’82) I did not get in to most of the more traditional four year colleges I applied to, but managed to convince Hampshire I was worthy of admission. It turned out to be the perfect college for me — I developed intellectual discipline across a broad range of academic areas and really learned what it means to direct your own learning process. I doubt I would have succeeded in a more traditional environment, so I am a big proponent of evaluating college applicants based on their face-to-face interview and their ability to articulate their academic goals and interests. Gould does such a phenomenal job of educating across so many different modalities — traditional academics, experiential learning, travel, the arts — that students who take full advantage of all the opportunities offered there will be well-prepared for a place like Hampshire where they will be deeply involved in orchestrating their own success. Thanks again for this!

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