Fits & Fugues

Education can be so much more.

Wake Forest Drops SAT and ACT

Subtitle: Proving Alfie Kohn (and Others) Right Again

The Associated Press (as I traced the story back to them) through and other outlets are reporting that Wake Forest University will drop the SAT and ACT for admission requirements and, as the University’s site says, make them optional. This, according to the the Wake Forest News Service, in light of some studies questioning the value of the tests. 

“‘While many top-tier universities are increasing their reliance on standardized testing in the admissions process, recent research suggests that standardized tests are not valuable predictors of college success,’ said Wake Forest Provost Jill Tiefenthaler, the university’s chief academic officer whose office oversees admissions.” 

The Raleigh News & Observer reports in their article,

“There is a growing movement among colleges to de-emphasize the test. The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a Cambridge, Mass., organization that monitors standardized testing and advocates for alternatives, counts about 760 schools that don’t require the SAT or ACT. In recent years, highly regarded liberal arts colleges in the Northeast have joined the trend.”

The Wake Forest News Service also quotes director of admissions, Martha Allman, regarding the University’s reasoning,

“By making the SAT and ACT optional, we hope to broaden the applicant pool and increase access at Wake Forest for groups of students who are currently underrepresented at selective universities.”

Admirable, but is this really just a way for Wake Forest to keep the perception of being a highly selective university while broadening its applicant pool revenue stream? Time and bookkeeping will tell.

Further in the Wake Forest article you’ll see Allman remarking that 

“Removing the test requirement will demonstrate emphatically that we value individual academic achievement and initiative as well as talent and character above standardized testing.”

Interestingly the Wake Forest article makes this reference.

“Some studies indicate performance on the SAT is closely linked to family income and education level, while others suggest a possible testing bias against certain minority students.”

Ah, enlightenment in 2008, yet seems this has entered the collective understanding since at least March 9, 2001 (longer when you look at some of the research he sites) when Alfie Kohn published his article “Two Cheers for an End to the SAT” in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Consider some of his bulleted items.

  • “Year after year, the College Board’s own statistics depict a virtually linear correlation between SAT scores and family income. Each rise in earnings (measured in $10,000 increments) brings a commensurate rise in scores.”
  • “Individual scores don’t reflect a student’s intellectual depth. The verbal section of the SAT is basically just a vocabulary test. It is not a measure of aptitude or of subject-area competency.”
  • “SAT’s don’t predict the future. A considerable amount of research, including but not limited to a summary of more than 600 studies published by the College Board in 1984, has found that only about 12 to 16 percent of the variance in freshman grades could be explained by SAT scores, suggesting that they are not particularly useful even with respect to that limited variable…”

There’s plenty more there with one item referencing research from 1996.

So, I just have to ask… Knowing this specifically about the SAT and generally about standardized testing in general, how do we, in good conscience, perpetuate these practices? Why are we considering using a battery of tests from a similar company as part of our college and workforce readiness assessments?


May 27, 2008 - Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Nice to see the wall of SAT and ACT scores is starting to crumble. Makes you wonder how many more admissions counselors Wake Forest will be adding.

    Comment by Charlie A. Roy | May 27, 2008 | Reply

  2. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a Pre-School-16 continuum where we would all realize our greatest loss is creativity, innovation, engagement, and real learning–all to prove that we can read and do simple mathematics.

    Now if we can just convince a large number of people that not all high school students will need Algebra II, we might reduce the drop-out rate. When was the last time you dealt with an imaginery number (other than in your checkbook!)or solved a polynomial?

    Comment by Cinda Russell-Reese | May 28, 2008 | Reply

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