The Academic Approach to Test Optional

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:

Over the week we’ve defined test optional, reviewed specific policies, and featured some key perspectives on the subject. Today, we’ll articulate our position.

We believe: 

  1. Students benefit from standardized tests by using results to identify learning opportunities to master academic skills, skills that help students succeed both on and beyond the tests—in high school, in college, and in their careers.
  2. Standardized tests help students distinguish themselves in the admissions process. A strong standardized test score is important because most schools are not test blind (an important distinction from test optional).
  3. High-quality tests create gravitational pull towards higher achievement; a feature of higher performing education systems is a rigorous, common assessment. Such tests offer important reference points against GPAs that vary from school to school, provide rigorous standards to measure teaching against, drive skills-based instruction, and motivate students to learn.
  4. High-quality tests serve positive instructional ends: they shed light on mastery of college-readiness skills, help students identify important gaps in skills and understanding of material, and afford instructors insights to better individualize their curriculum to the needs of their students. However, we support efforts to improve the content on these tests.
  5. For these instructional reasons, high-stakes tests should trend more in the direction of formative assessments. These tests, designed to measure student growth while students are still actively learning the material, are aligned more clearly with grade-level curriculum, and more directly drive student learning through ongoing feedback and reassessment. 
  6. High-stakes tests like the ACT or SAT should be combined with GPA for college admissions. A holistic application review is essential, rather than considering ACT or SAT in isolation. Ultimately, the scores need to be considered in context with other admissions standards, especially given the inequities in our current educational landscape.
  7. Providing access to the SAT and ACT for all students does allow more students to access higher education. Ultimately, however, we must address the reasons why scores correlate so strongly with income by addressing inequities throughout our K-12 education system that lead to gaps in performance on these tests. For those who lack opportunity or access to standardized tests, it is positive that test optional affords them the opportunity for a holistic review. 

Please reach out to us if you’d like to engage in further conversation. Education, learning, and discourse are the foundations of Academic Approach, and we are here to help.

Be well,
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

Matthew Pietrafetta

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