A shake-up in college admissions is reaching one of its biggest schools so far. George Washington University, which is private, announced most students will not need to turn in SAT or ACT scores effective Aug. 1. The test-optional movement is part of the growing debate over standardized testing.
"I think possibly that taking the spotlight away from the SAT creates a more diverse mosaic of student achievement and student possibility," Derek Thompson, senior editor at The Atlantic, said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning."
In a statement, Laurie Koehler, senior associate provost for enrollment of George Washington University, said: "We hope the test-optional policy sends a message to prospective students that if you are smart, hard-working and have challenged yourself in a demanding high school curriculum, there could be a place for you here."
George Washington joins other schools, including Wesleyan, NYU, American, Wake Forest and Smith College, among the more than 850 private and public universities that don't require all or many applicants to submit standardized test scores.
"I think they're interested in getting more disadvantaged students," Thompson said. "There's a lot of research that says that SAT ... scores correlate very highly with socioeconomic backgrounds. So on the one hand, this is a way to essentially take this enormous pool of smart, disadvantaged students and get them to apply."
On the other hand, Thompson thinks there is an ulterior motive for the university.
"The thing that would happen when you stop forcing people to submit their test scores, the only people that will submit their test scores will be proud of their scores. Test scores go up and you'll have more people apply, but you'll accept the same number, admission rate goes down. Higher average test scores, lower admission rates - that makes your school more selective," Thompson said.
Thompson said "the great irony" of the SAT is that it was invented in 1926 as part of a meritocratic movement to level the playing field and have a uniform way to measure students who come from both privileged and disadvantaged backgrounds.
"But it's become a new artifact of privilege, because richer parents and richer families can spend a lot of money on these test prep courses and essentially give richer kids an advantage over disadvantaged students. We've seen that across the board in research," Thompson said. "This is a way to essentially acknowledge that fact and say maybe it's smartest to go back to just GPA."
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