- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2007

TOWSON, Md. (AP) — Goucher College has dropped the requirement that applicants submit SAT scores, the second four-year institution in Maryland to do so.

Sanford J. Ungar, president of the small, private liberal arts college, said the decision to experiment with optional SAT scores was influenced by the positive experiences of other colleges.

“The schools that have already done this have found that their applicant pool tends to grow larger, be more diverse,” he said. It gives them “at least as good a class as they’ve had before,” he added.

Among those schools is Salisbury University. Officials at the Eastern Shore school earlier this month said early results suggest the policy is increasing interest among qualified applicants.

A growing body of research has shown scores on standardized tests, including the SAT and ACT, are no better at predicting success in college than high school grades and achievement tests in individual subjects.

A study published in June of students admitted to the University of California system found SAT scores “add little if any” predictive information to high school grades, said Saul Geiser, a co-author of the report.

Critics of the SAT also say the test puts low-income and minority students at a disadvantage. Such students tend to receive lower grades, in part because of limited access to test-preparation services.

At Goucher, applicants will be able to decide whether to have their standardized test scores count in the admissions process. All students who take the SAT or ACT will still have to report scores before they enroll for academic counseling and research purposes.

The New York-based College Board, which administers the SAT, points out that even when given the option, most students still take standardized tests and submit their scores. It also argues the SAT provides a safeguard against grade inflation.

“It should also be noted that test-optional colleges are not dropping testing, they are making it optional,” spokeswoman Nancy Viggiano told the Baltimore Sun. “The most selective colleges, including all Ivy League schools, still require test scores. In addition, the nation’s public flagship universities require test scores.”

FairTest, an advocacy group that is critical of the way standardized tests are used, hailed Goucher’s move.

The decision “continues an important trend in which — particularly — selective liberal arts colleges are recognizing that they don’t need the SAT or ACT to do high-quality admissions work,” said Robert Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest.

More than a quarter of the schools in U.S. News and World Report’s top 100 liberal arts college rankings use some variation of test-optional admissions, Mr. Schaeffer said.

Other Maryland institutions — including the University of Baltimore, Bowie State University and Frostburg State University — have said they’re considering test-optional admissions.

Salisbury University last year waived SAT requirements for applicants with high school grade-point averages of 3.5 or better. Students who applied without submitting test scores had better grades and were admitted at twice the rate of other students, officials said.



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