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Temple dumps SAT, ACT scores from application process

Deb Erdley

College-bound students with test phobias might want to take a second look at Temple University.

The Philadelphia school will become the first public research university in the Northeast to drop the requirement that applicants submit an SAT or ACT score, starting in fall 2015.

Students can submit the scores with their applications, but Temple President Neil Theobald said the university wants to provide access for “talented students who don’t perform well on standardized tests.”

Standardized tests, for decades the gold standard for college admissions, have come under increasing scrutiny as predictors of college success.

This year, the National Association of College Admissions Counseling posted the results of a three-year study of 123,000 students at 33 test-optional schools that found little difference in graduation rates and grade-point averages between students who submitted test results and those who did not.

That doesn’t surprise William N. Black, senior vice provost for enrollment management at Temple.

“Research has shown the high school GPA is the best predictor of how well students do in college,” Black said.

Temple will require test-optional applicants to provide short, written answers to four questions designed to reflect skills such as perseverance and determination.

Black said Temple, where the average freshman scored 1129 on the SAT last year, has noticed a consistent uptick in applications and SAT scores. The decision to go test-optional wasn’t an effort to enroll more students, he said, but to expand the pool of students.

“By giving students more choices, we open doors to more first-generation students and those from underserved communities whose enormous academic promise may be overlooked by conventional measures of achievement,” Theobold said.

Washington & Jefferson College and Chatham University are the only Western Pennsylvania schools that have gone test-optional.

At Chatham, which dropped its test requirement in 2006, about 94 percent of applications submit SAT or ACT test results.

“I think it was just another option for us to reach out to students,” Chatham spokesman Bill Campbell said.

Even some schools that require standardized tests say they are not a dominant factor in admissions.

“Penn State has for many years recognized that a student’s performance in high school has more importance in the decision for admission and for academic success at Penn State than standardized test scores,” university spokeswoman Lisa Powers said.

Others boast about test scores.

At the University of Pittsburgh, officials say SAT scores are a point of pride. Last year’s average freshman SAT score was 1293, university spokesman Ken Service said, and this year’s class is expected to equal or eclipse that number.

But more than 800 colleges and universities have gone test-optional, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

“Schools are focused on what they can do to get the best class of paying students to fill their seats. And the numbers, both from their own school and peer institutions, tell them that test scores are not a particularly powerful predictor of student success,” said Center spokesman Robert Schaeffer.

The College Board, which is revamping the SAT and adding free test prep materials designed by the Khan Academy, insists that tests are important tools.

“In decades of validity studies, high school GPA and SAT scores, in combination, have been shown to be the best predictors of college success. The College Board continues to advocate for a variety of factors to be considered in the admissions process,” said Jack Buckley, senior vice president of research.

Debra Erdley is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or [email protected].


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