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Parents, high school students and college counselors, listen up. I’ve got good news about those dreaded and bank-account-draining college admission tests and test prep programs.

What, you say? Good news in this landscape of worry? Worry about getting in, about paying the ever-inflating college tuition, about whether the kid will be employable after the huge investments of time and money, the accumulation of debt. Somewhere in that landscape is the worry about the SATs and ACTs. To prep or not to prep, which test to take and how many times to take it. Will the scores mean the college of the kid’s dreams is out of the question? I can’t erase all these worries, but I can certainly take the edge off.

Here’s how. There are now more than 800 accredited, bachelor degree-granting U.S. colleges and universities that do not require applicants to submit test scores. The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) has a complete, searchable online list of these schools here. Nearly 150 colleges and universities on this list rank in the top tier of their respective academic categories. The number of test-optional institutions soared after the latest revision of the SAT and ACT in 2005, with 80 schools joining the list in the past several years.

I work for FairTest, but as the Hair Club for Men guy says, I’m also a customer. When my older son was in high school, I could feel the tension rising in PTO meetings as parents asked when to register for admission tests, what to take, how many times to take them, what was the cost of a good prep class or tutor. But my blood pressure stayed low. I knew that my son had a long list of great schools to consider that didn’t require him to submit scores. I always raised my hand to share this information with other parents, who were often surprised and happy to hear it.

What I didn’t know until later was how the test-optional list was going to help my son identify schools that share his (and my own) values about education. By choosing to become SAT- and ACT-optional, these colleges show that they recognize how little test results tell them about individual students’ high school achievements and potential for college success. By looking beyond test scores, they show that they want to look carefully and thoughtfully at the whole student: the courses they take, their grades, their activities and interests, their essay, and samples of the work they have done. In the end, the optional schools say they get a stronger, more diverse and better student body.

Bates College has been SAT- and ACT-optional for more than two decades and has studied how their policy has affected their student body. They concluded that there has been no meaningful difference in academic performance between score submitters and non-submitters. What’s more, the policy has allowed the school to increase diversity and has attracted students who choose to major in fields that require creativity and originality.

In 2004, Bates Vice President William Hiss presented the results of research into the policy at a college admissions counseling conference. He said, “The difference is five hundredths of a GPA point and one-tenth of one percent in graduation rates. On this we hang the national sluice gate system about who gets into college and where they go?”

Bates and other colleges see clear benefits. For students, there’s the benefit of finding a school that is much more likely to be a good fit than one that simply chooses students by the numbers.

That’s exactly what happened for my son, a creative, theater-loving, math-phobic, studious yet fun-loving guy who tended to underperform on standardized tests. The optional-list schools he applied to looked at all of his strengths and didn’t penalize him for his weaknesses. He’s now working hard, doing theater and enjoying his sophomore year at an extraordinary college.  

I’ve still got all the other angst, but as we embark on the college search process a second time, I’m glad to be able to cross worries about admission tests off my list.

Originally posted to LisaGuisbond on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 11:19 AM PST.

Also republished by Education Alternatives and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I always tested well (18+ / 0-)

    and it never felt fair.  

    The weird thing is that 'testing well' is a skill that I spent a lot of time (and money) developing and honing, because it means so much in academia.  but, it means very little in the working world.  Offices give assignments (in groups even!), not tests.  

    Not only are we harming our students as students with our testing obsession, we are harming them as future members of the workforce.  

    •  I'm curious -- what about it felt "unfair"? (13+ / 0-)

      I always tested well too, but I never thought about it in terms of fair or unfair. I read a lot and so vocabulary- and reading-based questions were easy for me, and I did tolerably well on the math.

      It sounds like you actually worked hard at learning to test well. But how does/did your success feel "unfair"?

      Please visit: http://www.jkmediasource.org

      by Noisy Democrat on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 03:04:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Several ways (20+ / 0-)

        depending on the test.

         - If it was a test meant to test my knowledge (like most given in a class), I felt I was able to outperform my knowledge level relative to my classmates.  I stayed calm during tests, focussed, and prioritized my time well (not wasting time on lost causes etc.).  These are skills unrelated to how much I knew about a topic.  

         - type preparation.  There is preparing for a test, and there is learning material.  I am good at assimilating information in anticipation of testing, by understanding how teachers typically test.  Again, this is not really related to what the teacher is hoping to measure with the test.  For example, for english class I could skim a book in a particular way and outscore a classmate who read the book.  

         - test awareness.  I have been trained from a  young age to place prime importance on tests.  This means you study 'toward' the test.  Law School is a good example with this, while other students were worried about being called on, or in class questions, I didn't care.  I kept my eye on the final exam (who cares if I get embarrassed in class with a question I don't know?)  I don't know how 'unfair' this really is, but it felt unfair.  

        Then there are other factors such as money for test study materials, time to study, availability of reading materials, but those are more about socio-economic status generally, and less about 'tests.'  

        Some people are good at speaking, some are good at reading, some at socializing etc.  Test taking is a skill that gives a disproportionate advantage in our society.  

        Wow, what a ramble your simple question unleashed.  I would say that your example isn't exactly what I'm talking about.  Reading a lot so you know words and do well on vocab is knowing vocab, not being good at testing.  Being able to identify typical test writers tricks by using familar sounding words that have different meaning, or even understanding which scoring systems make it a good idea to guess, or skipping a question without getting panicked or confused on a bubble sheet - that's good at testing.  

      •  i always tested well (16+ / 0-)

        and felt it was all very unfair because of my older sister.  i knew she was neither stupid nor lazy, but for the life of her, she really struggled to get better than Cs and the occasional B and really didn't test so well on all these crazy aptitude things.  so i came to the realization that not all educational approaches/evaluations work for everybody.

        Please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothin' new to say - Grateful Dead

        by Cedwyn on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 04:13:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I test extremely well (11+ / 0-)

        The reason it feels unfair to me is that I tend to drastically overperform compared to my actual competence and level of preparation.

        My classmates usually study for weeks before a content test like a midterm/final exam. They'll spend probably 40-50 hours, cumulatively, going over their book and notes, doing practice problems, making/using flash cards to memorize definitions. That's in addition to attending every class and doing all the homework. On an open-book test, they'll spend hours and hours optimizing their book/notes so they can easily access the right information during the test.

        I, on the other hand, will skip class and do only the bare minimum of homework. I'll spend 4-5 hours on the day of the test (possibly as early as the day before if it's a morning exam) either making a note sheet or quickly memorizing the few formulas/facts that seem most essential to me. I'll walk into the testing room with essentially no idea what to expect, very little familiarity with the material, and not a whole lot of sleep, and just sort of work out how to answer all the questions based on my understanding of the core concepts and whatever hints are provided on the test.

        For standardized/'aptitude' tests I don't prepare at all. I got a 1580 on the SATs with zero preparation and 4 hours of sleep.

        I am an absolute master at interpreting the subtle 'leading' questions and deciphering the hints given by the vocabulary used. I'm incredibly good at using information that's accidentally provided in some questions to answer others. I'm great at decoding unfamiliar words based on my familiarity with their roots (in English and other languages).

        But that doesn't mean I know the material any better than other people taking the test. I actually know a lot less. I'm just better at recognizing what's most important or most relevant to the question at hand based on...I don't even know what it is. The way test questions are asked triggers my memory effectively and sends me down the right line of reasoning.

        "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

        by kyril on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 06:51:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I did, too (0+ / 0-)

          although I never heard of any test-prep courses back when I was in school.  Reading and language was always my strong point (no surprise there!) but I greatly outperformed my available knowledge in science and in particular, math.  I never knew why - perhaps picking up clues in the science questions, but going with intuitive choices on math.  I was a good student, but nowhere near the 95% percentile in math.

          My dad was an engineer, as are both my children today.  Perhaps there are genetic things in my brain that I just never consciously tapped?

          The truth always matters.

          by texasmom on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 08:02:48 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Likewise... (0+ / 0-)

          I was going to write a long reply, but I felt it was overly personal, but this is very similar to my own experience and perspective.

          Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

          by mahakali overdrive on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 12:01:29 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Tests reveal how good you are at taking tests. (0+ / 0-)

          I did quite well on standardized tests (including 99th percentile on one of my Graduate Record Exam tests – even though I didn’t end up going to grad school).

          On standardized tests, do this:

          If you know the answer or can figure it out right away, answer it and go on. Or sometimes with math, you can estimate and pick the closest answer. You don’t need to multiply .98756 times 3601.55 – you just think to yourself, the first number is a little less than 1 and the second is a little more than 3600. The answer should be really close to 3600. If it’s multiple choice, you pick the closest number without even doing the math.

          If you don’t know the answer (or if it will take a long time to figure out), skip it and go to the next question. You can leave it blank and come back later. Because the goal is to answer as many questions correctly in the allotted time. Don’t get stuck on something you don’t know or will take too long to figure out.

          If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess. But if you can narrow it down to a couple of possibilities, then guess because of the way they add up the answers.

          Try to figure out what they want. If the question is asking the length of a triangle side, you don’t have to figure out what the angles are.

          Sometimes, every single answer could be a correct answer (if you’re smart enough to think outside the box). For example, an analogies test might ask something like: “evil is to good as never is to: 1)Egg, 2) Paternal, 3) Always, or 4)Heaven” I could argue that each of those could be the correct answer –

          Evil:Good::Never:Egg  (because the first word has two syllables and the second has one)
          Evil:Good::Never:Paternal (each pair is in alphabetical order)
          Evil:Good::Never:Always (they’re opposites – most likely the correct answer)
          Evil:Good::Never:Heaven (you can form them into a sentence, “Never be evil, good people go to heaven.”

          You have to figure out what the test-maker wanted you to answer (even if some of the other answers might seem to be right, logically).

          --

          IQ tests are flawed because they give you back one number that says “smart or dumb.” There isn’t one linear measurement, where 100 is average and genius is 150 (or whatever). Some people are good at math, some at language. Some people are good at figuring out how to win an election or how to fix your car or how to be friendly or how to motivate people or being empathetic. And some people are worse at those things. I would argue there are a dozen or more different types of intelligence.

          “If you misspell some words, it’s not plagiarism.” – Some Writer

          by Dbug on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 07:36:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I did get a job scoring tests (15+ / 0-)

      10 years ago, I actually did get a job scoring responses to open ended questions for a major educational  testing company in New Hampshire.  It was a horrible job, not so much for the work itself which I enjoyed, but because of the low pay, the rampant mismanagement, and nonexistent career security.  The entire K-12 public education system has been twisted to meet the requirements of test administered by companies who hire untrained $10/hour temps to do the actual scoring.

    •  I always tested well too (9+ / 0-)

      I learned, later on, that part of that was because I was ahead of the game in reading comprehension.  (Just this year when I turned 33 did I finally reach the reading comprehension age I tested to when I was 14.)

      It's not just the reading, vocabulary, and essay writing that being able to read well helps with.  It helps with logic and math too, because someone who can read well can understand the question well, far more so than someone who struggles with reading.

      My husband is an education professor.  When he first started, he made his quizzes a bit too obtuse.  His students had an average quiz grade of below 50 on one of those early quizzes.  My best friend and I both took the quiz blind - neither of us had ever taken a single education class in our lives.  I scored an 80, and she scored a 70.  I was able to read the quest and understand what it was asking for instantly, and based on "context clues" (the magic word for learning back when I was a kid) make an educated guess as to the best answer.

      Reading well often means testing well, regardless of the subject matter of the test.

      The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

      by catwho on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 05:59:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  *question - doesn't help the typos, though! (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, Nulwee, texasmom, Oh Mary Oh

        The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

        by catwho on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 06:00:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  True -- I recently helped a friend (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        texasmom

        who was studying for his medical board exams. I found that I could get 1/3 of the questions right (definitely above chance guessing level) without any medical training, just by reading and thinking logically about what they were asking. But I don't have a problem with that. Someone who can communicate well (i.e. understand what other people are trying to say) and figure things out probably will do better on many tasks than someone who can't.

        Please visit: http://www.jkmediasource.org

        by Noisy Democrat on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 05:37:12 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  What, and let 12 years of NCLB (9+ / 0-)

    test taking training go to waste?

    That'd be crazy!!

    •  you jest (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh, suesue

      every time they change the standards, the new standards don't go into effect until the current class is promoted through the system.  So, in the name of test efficiency and test fairness, students are NOT taught what the state of Washington thinks is most useful for them.

      It's been a hundred years, isn't it time we stopped blaming Captain Smith for sinking the Titanic?

      by happymisanthropy on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 09:43:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  College tests saved me. (17+ / 0-)

    Moved to a new town right before high school and I never adjusted to it, which affected my grades.

    The tests were my lifeline.

    "Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' sought and received incentives."

    by Bush Bites on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 02:38:09 PM PST

    •  Tests are useful. (7+ / 0-)

      Without standardized tests, kids would be judged by soft, fuzzy criteria.

      Too often this boils down to:

      1) Who you know (or who your parents know),
      2) Subjective feelings that teachers/admissions officials have about you, or
      3) If your parents could afford fancy "extra-curricular activities" to pad your application. (Lacrosse, anyone?)

      The AP tests in particular, do a fantastic job of distinguishing between kids who know their calculus and kids who are "teacher's pets".

      When people get news they don't like, they sometimes attack the messenger. Standardized tests are often an easy target.

      •  #3 bugs me (5+ / 0-)

        Yeah, it's not just the ones parents pay for. At my school, it was Student Council, the Honor Society, and maybe one or two clubs. Most of the kids I knew didn't do Student Council because they enjoyed it. They did it to pad their applications. The Honor Society wanted kids to be "good citizens" and go to sporting events and plays. A lot of kids bought tickets, showed the stub, but didn't actually go. Eh, I don't know. Some kids might enjoy it. But sometimes, it feels like kids are too busy anymore to read or do anything independently.

      •  Sorry but I disagree. (5+ / 0-)

        Right now the college admission process is a complete joke. Kids take as many AP classes as possible which means they take the tests at $87 each for a chance to get college credit. My son passed the AP World history test last year which means he won't have to take it in college if he goes to a state university. His class was awful. At complete joke. He needs to take it in college and now he won't.

        The admissions tests are just giant cash cows for the College Board.

        In addition to getting great grades and high test scores kids also need a wide variety of community service, other activities and even employment?

        And these kids all look the same on paper, so it still boils down to your list.

        Since when is the party that embraces all the top tenets of Satan allowed to call the God shots?--wyvern

        by voracious on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 04:12:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  There is actually no evidence (2+ / 0-)

        that SAT or ACT scores predict success in college.

        GPA is a far more accurate predictor.

        •  There is plenty of evidence. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, Noisy Democrat

          The best study is Berry and Sackett who studied tens of thousands of students .

          It is true that SATs plus grades are...better but SATs by themselves are still pretty good.

          •  Uh, one study (0+ / 0-)

            doesn't settle this issue. The university of california wanted to get rid of the test altogether years ago, but parents who have learned how to game the system forced them to change direction.

            Read my comment below - there are many students from low income backgrounds who do poorly on these tests for reasons totally unrelated to aptitude. I know some of them.

        •  As the Bates admin said: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          happymisanthropy, decembersue
          The difference is five hundredths of a GPA point and one-tenth of one percent in graduation rates.
          If the tests told us anything useful, it would show up in the grades and graduation rates at schools that don't use the tests.
          •  The Bates study was flawed. (0+ / 0-)

            They only looked at the students they admitted and who matriculated.

            Any kid who makes it through the admissions process either has good scores, good grades, or both. In other words, they are going to be successful.

            Bates basically sampled on the dependent variable.

            The only way to know if scores are meaningful is to compare the kids who got into a college with the kids rejected by that same college.

            That's what Berry and Sackett did.

            •  uh, these are two different approaches (0+ / 0-)

              to the same problem. One study felt that comparing apples to apples and looking at admitted students would get a more accurate result. The other study felt that looking at students who were rejected was a better approach. You can certainly make arguments for both, but your contention that one is a slam dunk is simply incorrect. This is not a settled issue.

              Comparing a student rejected from, say, Grinnell (a mid-tier liberal arts school) to a student who is accepted to Grinnell, to see who is more likely to graduate, makes no sense. The student at Grinnell gets a nice private liberal arts education that is designed to help them graduate. The rejected student who ends up at an underfunded college or a drastically less academic school may not have that level of support. Nor do the lower-tier schools give students as much incentive to finish, as their degrees aren't perceived to be as valuable.

              If you took the admitted student, ripped them out of Grinnell, and plopped them into the same circumstances, you might get the same result.  You don't know. All you know is that the rejected students have been sent on a different path, and you don't know how much that path alone may influence their success.

              Self-fulfilling prophecy. We create these tests to predict how kids will do in college, and then we use them to reject kids from the better colleges. Then we're surprised when they don't do as well after rejection? Er.....

      •  Fuzzy criteria is the only way to judge people (5+ / 0-)

        We are complex beings, and we can't be forced to fit into numbers in a database.

        What you say is why I support affirmative action.  It takes the difficulties someone faces in life into account in the admissions process, as it should.

        I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

        by Futuristic Dreamer on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 05:27:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Grades are still (0+ / 0-)

        much better at predicting college success than test scores are.

        It's been a hundred years, isn't it time we stopped blaming Captain Smith for sinking the Titanic?

        by happymisanthropy on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 09:44:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Me too (15+ / 0-)

      I grew up in a chaotic family and had low self-esteem. Often I had no idea what the teachers were talking about or how to do what they wanted. But I loved to read and was curious about everything. So I aced standardized tests, which seemed to be mostly simple -- for people who loved to read -- questions about vocabulary and the meanings of texts. I was astonished when UC Irvine, which was just then getting started, sent me a letter saying that my performance on the PSAT -- a test to which I'd attached no particular importance; I took it only because we all marched in and took it that day -- meant that I was guaranteed admission if I so chose. I hadn't even thought about college.

      It was a similar story for my doctorate (I have a Ph.D.). I took the GRE after a friend called and asked "Are you taking the GRE tomorrow?" and I said "Oh, is it tomorrow?" I sent the scores to UC San Diego at my friend's insistence; I thought I was too stupid to get a Ph.D. Only after the scores came back and one of my professors said "If they turn you down, you don't want to go there, because it means there's something wrong with them" did I realize I was smart enough to make it.

      My GPA never reflected my potential until my graduate school years, when I finally found my niche and got the kinds of high grades my teachers always insisted I should be getting. Thank God for tests, which provided an alternate way for me to demonstrate the potential that didn't show in my GPA.

      Please visit: http://www.jkmediasource.org

      by Noisy Democrat on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 02:54:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Test scores should be a useful data point (10+ / 0-)

    But it should definitely not be the only data point!

    I help with alumni interviews for a school that does require test scores. However, they are by no means the only thing the admissions office considers (since there are alumni interviews, this should be fairly clear!).

    I believe that test scores are significant only when there's a significant discrepancy between the overall academic record and the test score. If the overall record is fine and there's a bad test score, I'd look it as the student having a bad day, or maybe the pressure of the test. Unless all the tests are bad (including subject-specific tests) over multiple dates, there's not really a red flag there. And even in such a case, the problem is more likely to be with the school curriculum rather than the student.

    The other, trickier case is when test scores are high but the academic record is weak. Then you have to figure out how to deal with that. It could be that the school is one of those rare ones that don't have rampant grade inflation. It could be a lack of effort on the part of the student. Or it could be something else. Unfortunately, for an admissions officer that has to decide between hundreds of cases, this could be enough of a question mark that it might not be worth the time to figure out why there's a big discrepancy—unless there's something in the rest of the record that makes them invest the effort. (For example, glowing letters of recommendation, major awards or achievements, or a note from an interviewer.)

  •  As an SAT tutor... (12+ / 0-)

    ...I could not agree more.

    My job is very lucrative to me, but as I always say, in a perfect world I'd be out of work. The SAT is a terrible test that isn't even clear on what precisely it's supposed to measure.

    •  What strikes me as peculiar is (8+ / 0-)

      that back when I took the SAT (and PSAT) that "job description" didn't exist.  I seem to recall a "sample test" booklet to familiarize us with the format and what to expect, but that was it.  Studying for the test just wasn't part of the game.  I didn't do any of that, and nobody else I knew did either.  The presumption everywhere was that if you knew the subjects you'd do fine, and trying to memorize the answers to a thousand questions wouldn't help.

      When did that change?

      Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

      by Deward Hastings on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 03:44:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The SAT does measure something meaningful. (5+ / 0-)

      The SAT measures the financial wealth, education, and social standing of your family.

      It also measures how aggressively your parents provide opportunities for being coached, enriched, and tutored.

      Unfortunately, these things are the same things that make a successful college student! That's why colleges use the SAT.

      People who rail against the SAT are just "shooting the messenger". The SAT didn't create the Class System in America, it merely reports it -- objectively and to the last decimal point.

      •  I had no fancy tutors or tests (4+ / 0-)

        I did go to a very good school, but it was a public school.  I borrowed one SAT study book from the library.  I did take the test twice - paying for the second time with my own allowance to see if I could beat my score in math.  (I did.)  

        While a good deal of students are pampered with test prep, not all of us were.

        The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

        by catwho on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 06:05:05 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          catwho

          I went to a magnet public school and wound up getting pretty good SAT scores, actually.

          The scores that I received were actually in the top 90th percentile nationally but it felt as if I was within the bottom 10th percentile within my school.

          And I studied for those tests and was not pampered.

          There are inexpensive materials that you can get to study for those tests. In lieu of that, ever HS counselor's office should have access to test prep materials but it is up to the student to do the work.

      •  It measures your test-taking ability (6+ / 0-)

        which is strongly influenced by the above factors, but isn't entirely explained by them. Some of us are just gifted at test-taking with absolutely no coaching/tutoring/directed instruction.

        "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

        by kyril on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 06:57:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I would (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        suesue

        rec this comment 1000 times if I could.

      •  In my experience (0+ / 0-)

        (my own college board tests in 1979/80) and my daughter's (2010/11), the test is probably a good indicator of socio-economic status and educational level of a test-taker's parents, but not necessarily the taker's prepping and cramming or tutoring or fancy prep school.

        I did well at a public high school but only carelessly did the Stanley Kaplan test prep book "studying." I don't know if my daughter practiced or anything; she may have done some online but we certainly didn't send her to test prep classes.

        I think for a lot of students it is the ability to read that helps with taking such tests. And of course reading at a high level is often an indicator that a student comes from a literate household.

  •  You replace those tests with (8+ / 0-)

    high-school teachers who can teach students to write a decent essay , and I'll be for it.

    "Republicans are poor losers and worse winners." - My grandmother, sometime in the early 1960s

    by escapee on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 04:05:16 PM PST

    •  Heh. (6+ / 0-)

      I wrote a fair number of papers in high school, and more in college, and worked for several years as a technical writer, but I never actually learned how to write a decent essay until I took a test prep course for a teaching certificate in, of all things, health, given by the county.

      In my years of writing, I had figured out much of the county's advice already, but I had never summed it all up into a coherent whole in my own mind. And I had never really been concerned with how quickly I wrote, so I learned some tricks there, since the essay test was a timed test.

      In my years teaching (not Language Arts) one of the most frustrating questions I heard when assigning students to write a paragraph about something was, "How many sentences?"

      Kids are learning formula writing these days, and it shows.

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 04:50:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not just these days (10+ / 0-)

        My husband graduated from high school in 1972, and he never learned how to write an essay until I taught him.

        And I taught him because I had the fearsome Mother Dolores in high school. I can write an essay upside down, underwater, in the dark.  

        "Republicans are poor losers and worse winners." - My grandmother, sometime in the early 1960s

        by escapee on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 05:41:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Fearsome Mother Dolores (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          harchickgirl1

          essay writing tips might make a nice diary for Write On...

          "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

          by Orinoco on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 12:55:49 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Heh. (0+ / 0-)

          I had Mrs. Golding and Mrs. Jorgensen in high school (my fearsome Mother Doloreses, but not fearsome). Mrs. Jorgensen helped to write the AP English tests in previous years, so she taught a mean AP English class. I got a 5.

          Every Friday in AP English was essay day. We'd be given some writing excerpt we'd never seen before, a set of questions to answer about it in short essay form, and away we went!

          You get good at writing a critical essay about something you've never read before when you do it a lot, and get very constructive feedback about what you've done.

          My daughter's AP English class was crap; she can't write well during a timed response but did well on standardized English tests. She's in the sciences and has found her intellectual home. Right now finishing a semester of Paleontology, Mineralogy, Chemistry and Spanish Poetry at one of the colleges on this test-optional list.

      •  The result of high stakes testing. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Orinoco
        Kids are learning formula writing these days, and it shows.
        When students' futures and teachers' jobs are based on test results, this is the kind of crap that occurs.
        •  This predates NCLB by a few years (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          peregrine kate, suesue

          I suspect it has to do with the rising number of students in each classroom. Of course, high stakes testing has made the situation worse, not better. If essays weren't on the test, I'm not sure writing would remain in the curriculum.

          Unfortunately, having to write a "persuasive essay" on an assigned topic in a limited amount of time for a high stakes test does nothing to develop a writer's voice or style. It's a shame, really, that our kids are learning to hate writing as much as they are learning to hate reading.

          This is the mandatory third paragraph. It should be five sentences long, as were the preceding paragraphs. It's purpose is to summarize the topic introduced in paragraph one. High Stakes testing sucks.

          "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

          by Orinoco on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 12:51:44 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm working with a nonprofit (10+ / 0-)

    that helps low income students get into college. that program, which works within regular public schools, helps the students understand what the tests are, what good strategies are, gives them practice tests, etc.

    What's incredibly depressing about it is that several times now I've seen students improve their ACT scores by upwards of 8-10 points. The average is less than that - 4-5 I think - but still, I keep seeing kids with these big jumps.

    Why is it depressing? Because 8-10 points in a few months is not an indication of increased aptitude. It's an indication that first time around the student had no idea how to even approach the test. Even what it really was. And so a fairly low level of coaching and just getting kids to focus on it, giving them basic info, gets this kind of improvement.

    So given that our program - which receives some federal funding, but not a lot - is only in a tiny fraction of american schools, you can imagine how this plays out for the hundreds of thousands of perfectly smart kids from lower income backgrounds and/or difficult family situations who haven't been obsessing about college since birth.

    Some of the universities are waiving SAT/ACT for lower income students only, even if they don't do it for everybody, probably for this reason.

     Even when one student I worked with didn't get fantastic scores on her first ACT, she still had a 3.8 gpa. She didn't get smarter in the three months before she took it the second time and scored drastically higher. She just had the benefit of personal coaching.

    Until everybody in the US has access to programs like this, these tests are flat out unfair.

  •  Never take a for-profit school seriously (12+ / 0-)

    Never go to a 2 year program that isn't a public community college.  I saw a bunch on for-profit "fake" schools on that list, avoid them!

    Community colleges are much better academically and economically than their private counterparts.  Community college credits transfer to 4 year schools (often without requiring SAT scores), while credits from private 2 years programs don't. It's not worth the money or time to go to a private 2 year program.

    There are lots of great not-for-profit universities and liberal arts colleges out there, a few of which are on that list.  Many more of the schools on that list have names similar to reputable schools, but aren't what they appear to be.

    It would be wise to avoid limiting yourself to that list.

    I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

    by Futuristic Dreamer on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 05:19:35 PM PST

    •  They are also a bargain (6+ / 0-)

      Many students here go to the 2 year college for a year or two for financial reasons.  At $100 a credit hour, a community college is a bargain compared to a big university, even a public one.   The Big U here in town gladly accepts transfers, as they've got their own attrition from students dropping out after learning the hard way they weren't college material after all, or needing a break.

      The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

      by catwho on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 06:08:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  In which states are credit hours $100 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Futuristic Dreamer

        'Cuz that's where I want to send my kids. Around here, it's $350 - $380/credit hour for community colleges.

        •  California is less- $46/unit (3+ / 0-)

          for our Community College.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 08:16:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  And it's not hard to qualify for financial aid (0+ / 0-)

            by filling out the FAFSA!  I'm attending Community College and only pay $25 a semester to attend school (plus the cost of textbooks, which can get pricy) because of the Board of Governor's Waver.  Granted, I'm 26 rather than 18, but even when my husband and I were doing pretty well financially I qualified for the waver.  And honestly, I'm getting a better education at community college than I did at the CSU I attended when I was right out of high school, and if I were to do things over, I think I would have opted to have gone to community college the first time.  

        •  We're in GA (0+ / 0-)

          To be fair, that amount doesn't cover room or board or transportation or books- that's the bare bones fee for the classes.  But if there's a community college within a reasonable driving distance (e.g. 30 minutes away) and the kid can live at home, a parent can send them to school for $1200-$1500 a semester, depending on course load.

          The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

          by catwho on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 01:32:31 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  You are so right on!! (0+ / 0-)

      Would rec this comment a million times, if I could.

    •  That bothered me too (0+ / 0-)

      The list seemed heavy with particular types of schools. Lots of religious schools, from Bible college to Yeshivas, lots of art and music schools, and lots of community colleges and public university branch schools. I get why those institutions aren't helped by test scores. But the for-profit schools with the high-pressure sales pitches are something else altogether. They aren't looking for the best fit between school and student. They are looking to enroll EVERYBODY and grab the tax money before the student washes out.

      I see Shimer College, which was known as a school for maladjusted misfits, is on the list. I was encouraged to go there. I didn't see myself that way, even if others did, and I passed on applying there. Antioch and Bennington, of course. I know people who went there and those are schools for creative, offbeat people.

      Jon Husted is a dick.

      by anastasia p on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 03:12:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, I saw a lot of those for-profit (0+ / 0-)

      institutions on that list. However, there were a lot of well-regarded private, not-for-profit institutions on that list as well (my alma mater being one and I'll fight to the death to defend that place!)

  •  Thanks. I had no idea these tests were optional (4+ / 0-)

    at some good schools. I tested well on standardized tests, but my daughter doesn't. She is well-rounded and trying hard, so it's good to know that she doesn't have to try to clear this hurdle. I can only imagine the panic attack that would cause.

  •  Ah ... where were you 5 months ago? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radical simplicity, texasmom

    We could have used you in our household.  But, alas, we have spent far too much time an effort and money on test prep.

    It's not the most winning proposition since my daughter is dyslexic and has never tested well.

    Nice to hear about Bates.  We're stressed to the gills at the moment with the application process but we will check it out.

    Thanks for the diary ... if only belatedly.

    "Republicans have been fleeced and exploited and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex." - David Frum

    by Glinda on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 07:51:29 PM PST

    •  You have lots of company (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Glinda

      Several of our friends told their offspring they had to finish all applications before December 1st...or the whole family would melt down before Christmas!

      Must have worked - reports are that tension levels are now down to normal-adolescent levels now.  Hang in there!

      The truth always matters.

      by texasmom on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 08:11:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It would be extremely helpful (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Futuristic Dreamer, elfling

    If the list included some additional information, such as:

    - What is the significance of bold entries?
    - Which schools are non-profit?
    - Which are for-profit?
    - Which are private?
    - Which are public?

    •  I agree - it would be much more helpful if (2+ / 0-)

      there was less of a mishmash of schools there - ranging from schools like Cal Poly and Bryn Mawr to various for-profit trade schools. It would also be helpful to know which of these schools are nevertheless still highly selective.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 08:20:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  NYU, American, Sarah Lawrence are highly selective (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elfling, badscience

        They're the kind of schools that aren't worth applying to if you aren't an A student.

        It be great if the list was broken up into highly selective schools, less selective schools, and just remove the for-profit schools altogether.

        I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

        by Futuristic Dreamer on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 08:51:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  There are actually quite a few well-respected, (0+ / 0-)

          "elite" private, not-for-profit institutions on that list.

          Having been to one, and being in academia, I recognize the better known institutions, and very much notice the for-profit scam institutions. But not everyone has that insider information.

    •  Without this information, this list is pretty bad (4+ / 0-)

      Unless you come from a background with enough education to know the difference.

      I've realized my ability tell the difference between half decent and "fake" schools is a function of class, and something that served me well when I was looking for schools with low admissions requirements.  I went to a local community college, because I could transfer credit to a respected state school, and the school had a good program. I realize that if I didn't come from a family with a deeply academic (some would say elitist) background, I wouldn't have been able to navigate that, and easily could have been duped into choosing a for-profit school. Many people who don't come from the privilege I do are exploited by unscrupulous for-profit schools that do a disservice to their students, by saddling them with student loans and a worthless diploma.

      Including schools that found their accreditation in cereal box like "University of Phoenix", and "Walden University" isn't helping anyone. It's steering unsuspecting students towards greedy corporations exploiting student loan programs.  If you need a school with low admissions requirements, go to a community college.

      Learn more about the danger of For-Profit Colleges.

      I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

      by Futuristic Dreamer on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 08:46:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If I may, (0+ / 0-)

        I went to the University of Phoenix, graduated, and got into a more "traditional" graduate school without any problems.

        •  "Traditional" isn't the issue, quality is (0+ / 0-)

          Online schools are a bad joke in academia.

          I can tell University of Phoenix paid you for this comment, because no one who does graduate school applications right gets in "without any problems". Graduate school applications are a stressful process even if your undergraduate work was done at Harvard.  Being judged for all the accomplishments you've made in life so far, including your GRE scores, undergrad GPA, employer recommendations, etc. is a miserable and painful process. I know the best graduate schools will toss an application simply because the student graduated from University of Phoenix, even if they graduated with a 4.0.

          University of Phoenix has people troll the internet saying how great they are, but the truth is that everyone in the know knows they're a bad joke.

          I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

          by Futuristic Dreamer on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 11:51:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Why would you insult me ? (0+ / 0-)

            I am in fact NOT paid by the U of P. What an arrogant thing to say.You don't know ** about me.  Shall I forward you my grad school transcript?

             I never claimed U of P was great.It worked for me  as a working adult, and I was able to move onto the next step. Sorry my undergrad work doesn't live up to your standards, but its worked out just fine for me.

  •  Tests, Grades, & Learning are different things (4+ / 0-)

    GPA in college and high school depend on ones ability to do what you're told, and repeat boring tasks, consistently over a period of time.

    I've often done much worse with GPA than I do on tests, standardized or in school, because a lot what goes into GPA is motivation to homework and long term projects. When I was younger I had ADD & depression issues, where I'd either get so involved in a project, I do one part really well and another part poorly, or couldn't find the motivation to do boring repetitive work, as a result of the GPA was poor, but my test scores were usually good because I understood the material.

    FairTest seems really fond of using GPA as a predictor, have you considered that GPA may be inaccurate as well?  I have no doubt GPA measures GPA well, because factors that affect GPA in one setting will affect it in other settings too.

    I don't know if any of these methods are really measuring learning.

    I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

    by Futuristic Dreamer on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 08:14:22 PM PST

    •  My high school and college GPA's could not (5+ / 0-)

      Have been more different.

      I never quite hit straight 4.0 in college, but I was withing a hair's breadth. High school, I was literally the middle of my class - everyone else's GPA was higher or lower, and my GPA was the demarcation point. I was very busy outside of school, so homework was not a big focus for me - but boy did I get some extraordinary experiences: speaking to state legislatures as a representative of my school, doing volunteer work, being part of a traveling improv group, working in a sandwich shop and skating rink (a great lesson in where I did not want to spend my adulthood), and all sorts of other cool things. I figure the experiences were worth far more than some time doing busy work on material I already knew. So, my test scores were fine, but the utter lack of homework dragged my GPA down. (Pissed my teachers off to no end.)

    •  I couldn't agree more (5+ / 0-)

      I got a GPA of 3.98 in graduate school and completed my Ph.D., but in high school I was so depressed and overwhelmed by crazy family drama that I actually flunked some classes -- not because I couldn't understand the material but because I just couldn't get it together to do the homework. Thank God for standardized tests, which showed the potential that I had to do much, much better. I wrote a long comment about this elsewhere on this diary, but that's the gist. My brother was a similar story -- never graduated high school, probably due to self esteem issues (he's passed away so I can't ask him), later scored high on tests, got into college, got a Ph.D. in physics.

      High school GPA doesn't tell the whole story about a person. Not even close.

      Please visit: http://www.jkmediasource.org

      by Noisy Democrat on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 05:32:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for posting this (0+ / 0-)

    I'm sorry that today I'm more of a "what's the point? They'll never survive school long enough to care" mood.  But this is very helpful, and the list is full of some very excellent colleges and universities.

    Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

    by nominalize on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 09:27:06 PM PST

  •  I wouldn't want a Masters Degree... (0+ / 0-)

    ...from Bates University.

    Just sayin'.

    "Is there anybody listening? Is there anyone who sees what's going on? Read between the lines, criticize the words they're selling. Think for yourself, and feel the walls become sand beneath your feet." --Geoff Tate, Queensryche

    by DarthMeow504 on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 01:27:27 AM PST

  •  Timely piece for my family. (0+ / 0-)

    Thank you!

    If only we could get rid of standardized testing overall.

  •  I'm always torn on this issue. Politically, I am (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mahakali overdrive, badscience

    opposed to standardized testing, including the SATs and ACTs, which I believe have cultural and economic biases.  However, speaking just personally, they benefit my son.  Oddly enough, however, my son sounds very much like yours, with just two terms reversed.  My son is a "creative, theater-loving, math-phobic" kid who is, however, NOT studious, and tends to OVER-perform on standardized tests.  So the only way any college will be able to tell that he might someday grow into his intellectual potential is to look at his high test scores.  Otherwise he looks like a complete academic slacker.  It doesn't help that he has two professors for parents, so rebelling against schoolwork is a form of teenage rebellion against mom and dad.  Sigh.

    Nothing amuses me more than the easy manner with which everybody settles the abundance of those who have a great deal less than themselves. --Jane Austen

    by feeny on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 09:52:21 AM PST

    •  We have similar challenge (0+ / 0-)

      with high school freshman son. Not a creative type, but just isn't into the "details" like turning in homework. Seriously overperforms on standardized tests. An easy-going (on himself) personality.

  •  Are these mainly for-profit schools? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peregrine kate

    I'm asking not because I support college admission tests; honestly, I find them to be pretty arbitrary indicators of how kids will do in some departments, better in others.

    Like 99% of all sensible Democrats, I'm exceedingly wary of for-profit colleges. Looking over the list, I immediately noticed that a few are, and naturally so, because they are just looking to make money so they have no concern with academic integrity or education.

    Not saying all the schools on there are. Many, I'm unfamiliar with.

    Just saying.

    Also, I've worked part-time in non-corporate test administration. Feel free to ask me what this looks like and how our grading is profoundly different and much more fair; I've been offered countless positions with ETS/GRE test prep, and this is night and day and these seem like truly arbitrary measures of things; I wish all Universities would stop using these. I have less knowledge of ACT/SAT services, but I would imagine they are similar.

    I also wish they'd not give tests online. There is plenty of literature on how reading online hinders comprehension in general and involves different neurocognitive processes as well as totally obvious eye movement erraticism. This will wind up skewing results as test makers move toward this model.

    Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

    by mahakali overdrive on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 11:34:15 AM PST

  •  Optional is fine... (0+ / 0-)

    ...but I won't abide the argument that the tests serve no purpose.  Unfortunately, I would argue that admissions offices at these schools will conclude that the candidates who do not present a score do not test well.  In terms of their candidacy, it is a weakness which can be overcome with a strong resume, just as admissions officers know that many students can succeed despite a lack of high "natural" aptitude.

    I would agree that a significant contributor to success in testing is test-taking strategy, and that is something which can (and must) be taught to all college-bound students.  (There are tests in college, too, which require similar strategies.)  It is also possible to do very well on standardized tests without preparation courses--I did so, attending an average public high school.

    I have qualms about the addition of the essay to the test, because it goes against the purpose of measuring objectively a student's preparation for college; perhaps it is graded better than I would imagine.  

    I have to agree with those who have suggested that, without any standardized tests, there would be a huge amount of increased emphasis on grade-grubbing, resume-padding, and grade inflation in high schools to enable students to gain admission to quality schools.  This doesn't seem like it would be an improvement.

    It's the microeconomy, stupid!

    by chinshihtang on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 05:31:52 PM PST

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