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[Susan notes: Here's a letter you can sign. Go to http://homepage.mac.com/penguin48/Education1.html]

Submitted to but not published
03/19/2004
http://homepage.mac.com/penguin48/Education1.html

An Open Letter to College and University Presidents, Chancellors, Provosts, and Deans of Admission



We, the undersigned high school teachers and counselors, believe that the time has come to end the dominance of standardized testing in the college admission process. Daily, we see firsthand the distorting effects these tests have on our students: For those who can afford it, more and more time, energy, and money are being devoted to preparing for college admission tests at the expense of academic subjects and meaningful extracurricular activities. Those who cannot afford coaching must endure further erosion of their educations and more seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their pursuit of higher education as reliance on a mysterious number continues to take precedence over more substantive educational characteristics.



Our schools have come under increasing pressure to teach to the tests rather than focus on academic subjects. As a result, the very qualities that colleges prize, including the ability to be fully engaged with learning and community life at the highest levels, have been devalued. Our students have become test takers, worrying more about their scores than what they can learn. (In some states, for example, the results of the testing emphasis are already being seen in severe cutbacks in science and history classes in favor of test prep courses, shrinking rather than expanding educational opportunity.)



College and university admission officers say that test scores are only a small part of the admission process; however, we know that the SATs and ACTs preoccupy the public to the exclusion of nearly every other element. Even if we grant the tests' validity in predicting freshman GPA (demonstrated to be significantly less than testing companies would like us to believe), the educational costs far outweigh this tiny organizational benefit. Add to this the demonstrated correlation between students' scores and families' incomes and educational backgrounds, information readily available in other forms, and there seems little to justify the tests' dominance.



Testing companies claim, for example, that new writing sections on the tests will send a message that colleges value writing, which supposedly will improve the way writing is taught in high school classrooms. We know from experience that the effect will be exactly the opposite: Teachers and school administrators will feel compelled to teach to the test, not expand writing curricula, and test prep companies will reinforce only those aspects of writing needed to pass the test. Students will learn to write to a mechanistic scoring rubric, not to think, plan, edit and rewrite to produce thoughtful essays. American education is already suffering as a result.



We believe that standardized testing adds nothing valuable to the conversation about a students' abilities or chances for success. Instead, it encourages a reliance on a pseudo-scientific shorthand that does a disservice to a student's true potential and puts non-wealthy non-white students at a particular disadvantage.



We believe the time has come to end standardized testing's distortion of education and college admission and to reestablish the prominence of genuine and demonstrable academic effort and success as the main criteria for higher education. Many colleges and universities have already done so and have benefited from the change.



We believe that when colleges and universities re-emphasize actual student learning and accomplishment instead of testing numbers, high schools will be encouraged to revitalize their own curricula and help students study and learn in more valuable and constructive ways.



We believe that colleges and universities, by ending the dominance of testing, will find their new students better prepared for genuine college-level work in both ability and outlook.



In order to accomplish these goals, we ask colleges and universities to end their reliance on standardized testing and lead the effort to:



1. Re-examine the role of testing in admission by conducting independent institution-based (as opposed to testing company sponsored) studies of the correlation between test scores and freshman year success, and of the true influence that testing has on the decisions themselves.

2. Ensure that admission requirements do not involve minimum ACT/SAT requirements (cut-off scores) either explicitly or implicitly.

3. Lessen or eliminate testing's impact on admission decisions by adopting portfolio-style or other methods of evaluation that rely primarily on a student's demonstrated long-term performance, not on test scores.

4. Eliminate SAT/ACT requirements for applicants who demonstrate academic excellence through grades, class rank, rigorous course work or any combination of appropriate elements. (Several colleges have already adopted this method.)

5. Work with American high schools to establish substantive admission criteria that will encourage them to emphasize studenthood not testerhood.

6. Take a leadership role in American educational policy by speaking out against the vagaries of standardized testing as a measurement of student accomplishment or as a predictor of student success.





high school teachers and counselors


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