>Will Fitzhugh, The Concord Review
>The NACAC Testing Commission
has just released
>its report on the benefits of, and problems
>with, current standardized admission tests. The
>Commission says that "a 'one-size-fits-all'
>approach for the use of standardized tests in
>undergraduate admission does not reflect the
>realities facing our nation's many and varied colleges and universities."
>It might be pointed out, by an outside observer,
>that standardized tests not only do not reflect
>the realities of acceptance for high school
>students receiving athletic scholarships, but
>such tests have nothing whatever to do with
>whether high school athletes are recruited or
>not and nothing to do with whether they receive
>college athletic scholarships or not.
>Athletic scholarships are based on athletic
>performance in particular athletic activities,
>not on tests of the athletic or physical fitness
>of high school athletes. The cost of failure for
>college coaches is too high for them to think of
>relying on any standardized test of sports
>knowledge or of anything else in their efforts
>to recruit the best high school athletes they can.
>The NACAC Testing Commission also says that
>standardized tests may not do a good enough job
>of telling whether applicants to college are
>academically fit. They recommend the development
>and use of good subject matter tests which are
>"more closely linked to the high school curriculum" than the SAT and ACT exams.
>This suggestion begins to approach the rigor of
>assessment in the recruiting and selection of
>high school athletes, but there are still
>important differences. The high school athletic
>curriculum includes such subjects as football,
>basketball, soccer, baseball, etc., but college
>coaches do not rely on tests of athletes'
>knowledge of these sports as determined by
>sport-specific tests. They need to know a lot
>about the actual performance of candidates in
>those sports in which they have competed.
>The parallel is not perfect, because of course
>students who can demonstrate knowledge of
>history, biology, literature, math, chemistry,
>and so on, are clearly more likely to manage the
>demands of college history, biology, literature,
>math and chemistry courses when they get there,
>while athletes who know a lot about their sport may still perform poorly in it.
>But college academic work does not just consist
>of taking courses and passing tests. In math
>there are problem sets. In biology, chemistry,
>etc., there is lab work to do. And in history
>courses there are history books to read and
>research papers to write. Such performance tasks
>are not yet part of the recommended tests for college admission.
>It is now possible, for example, for a student
>who can do well on a subject matter test in
>history to graduate from high school without
>ever having read a complete history book or
>written a real history research paper in high
>school. That student may indeed do well in
>history courses in college, but it seems likely
>that they will have a steep learning curve in
>their mastery of the reading lists and paper
>requirements they will face in those courses.
>New standard college admissions tests in
>specific academic subjects will no doubt bring
>more emphasis on academic knowledge for the high
>school students who are preparing for them, but
>a standard independent assessment of their
>research papers would surely make it more likely
>that they would not plan to enter college
>without ever having done one in high school.
>>The reading of complete nonfiction books
>still an unknown for college admissions
>officers. Interviewers may ask what books
>students have read, but there is no actual
>standard expectation for the content, difficulty
>and number of nonfiction books high school
>students are expected to have read before college.
>The increased emphasis on subject matter tests
>is surely a good step closer to the seriousness
>routinely seen in the assessments for college
>athletic scholarships, but it seems to me that
>some regular examination of the reading of
>nonfiction books and an external assessment of
>at least one serious research paper by high
>school students would help in their preparation
>for college, as well as in the assessment of
>their actual demonstrated academic fitness
>which, as the Commission points out, is not now
>provided by the SAT and ACT tests.
>"Teach by Example"
>Will Fitzhugh [founder]
>Consortium for Varsity Academics® 
>The Concord Review 
>Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
>National Writing Board 
>TCR Institute 
>730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
>Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA
Labels: academic preparation, College Testing