Hampshire College, an alternative private liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts, refuses to accept ACT or SAT scores from applicants as a requirement for admission, which has completely knocked the college out of the rankings of US colleges and universities posted annually by US News & World Report, a news magazine.
Quite frankly, that suits officials at the college just fine. The change in admissions policy has more than made up for a loss in a magazine’s ranking by bringing tangible and intangible rewards to students who attend the school, as shown in this blog post on Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” blog for the Washington Post.
For the record, we have never supported the ranking of colleges or high schools by US News & World Report, despite the clear newsworthy nature of their rankings. Any system that purports to compare individual students, schools, teachers, states, or nations to others must do so in a spirit of cooperation, not competition (except friendly competition), and that is not what the magazine intends.
The essay Ms Strauss published was written by Jonathan Lash, the college’s president. He says that since the college made the decision not to accept SAT or ACT scores from applicants, the diversity among the student body has increased dramatically, and so has the percentage of students who accept their invitation to enroll. He writes:
How can US News rankings reliably measure college quality when their data-points focus primarily on the high school performance of the incoming class in such terms as GPA, SAT/ACT, class rank, and selectivity? These measures have nothing to do with the college’s results, except perhaps in the college’s aptitude for marketing and recruiting. Tests and rankings incentivize schools to conform to test performance and rankings criteria, at the expense of mission and innovation.
Instead of sending in test scores, students are required to write more essays and may decide to provide creative output for consideration. Mr Lash said this change in policy has made students focus more carefully on their application to Hampshire, including the optional elements, and has produced a higher caliber of matriculants since the “no SAT or ACT” policy went into effect.
We resoundingly applaud the shift at Hampshire and hope other colleges take their actions as a model to promote a level playing field for all college applicants, which can only be realized by forsaking standardized test scores that reflect little of what students know and show so much potential for bias against low-income minority students.
Some colleges—certainly more than a hundred, including Goucher College and Salisbury University in Maryland as well as Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois—make submission of SAT or ACT scores optional. That’s not what’s happening at Hampshire; Hampshire is effectively saying, “Don’t bother sending us your standardized test scores, because (a) test scores don’t mean anything to us, and (b) they probably mean you and your family have spent more energy (and money) on test prep than you have on your real education.”