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We are committed to providing you with the most up-to-date resources and announcements from the college admissions testing landscape. Here are some of the top headlines from this past month:
Critiques of the New SAT Accommodation Process
Summary: This opinion piece on EdWeek critiques the new, easier process for applying for accommodations on the SAT. The change in policy in January—which takes full affect for testing this school year—was a response to a Department of Justice inquiry into fair testing policies for those with disabilities. “At a minimum, we expect tests to provide valid results that actually measure what they purport to measure. On the SAT, it’s performance under a time constraint,” writes the author. “The new policy seems to toss that minimum to the wind.” “Since the SAT tests performance within a specific time,” she goes on, “The new policy seems to be a modification that changes what is tested and creates, in essence, a different test. Allowing more time on a timed test is like changing font size on an eye exam. It’s no longer the same test. The College Board owes it to students and educators to clarify: Is timing essential to what the SAT measures? Or is timing merely for administrative convenience? That is, is extended time an accommodation or a modification?”
What this means: This article is sure to spark some debate. It brings up commonly asked questions about the way in which extra time accommodations specifically may impact test scores. But it also broaches heavily loaded questions about how we level the playing field. Some may ask if extra time gives an advantage to students with learning differences (LDs) or whether extra time is a way to erase the advantage students without LDs have over those who do have LDs. It’s a complex question that requires much more public study. The SAT and ACT simply haven’t released enough data for those of us on the outside to really make informed opinions.
ACT Quietly Announces Change to Time-and-a-Half Testing Accommodation
Summary: In an email to test takers today, the ACT announced that starting this school year the ACT will change the way it allows students to use their time if they receive time-and-a-half. This change will ONLY affect students taking the exam with the essay. Under the old system, students received 6 hours total for the test, and they could use the entire 6 hours however they wanted across all 5 sections. Now, the time will be given in 2 separate blocks: 5 hours to do the multiple-choice sections and 1 hour to write the essay. This new policy goes into effect immediately.
What this means:
- Because of the low weight put on the essay, many students usually plan to use their extra time from the essay (or even more than that) on the more-important, multiple-choice sections. It’s been a very common strategy since the addition of the essay to the ACT in 2005. But as more colleges move towards no longer looking at or requiring the essay, the ACT has likely become concerned that accommodated students gain a large advantage by being able to give a half effort on the essay. This strategy will no longer be allowed. Students will be forced to use that extra time for the essay on the essay only. It’s a good move that will level the playing field with students not given accommodations.
- This change will have a dramatic effect on many students’ strategies. Unfortunately—and a bit unfairly in all honesty—the ACT chose to announce this change less than two weeks before the September exam.
SAT Announces Plan to Begin Small-Scale Computer-Based Exam
Summary: Last week, the College Board announced that it “will give a practice version of the SAT online in some school districts in December, and then administer a fully operational, digital version of the SAT—and the PSAT 8/9—to more students in the spring of 2018.” Nearly 5,000 students took a pilot online SAT this past year and another 5,000 took a pilot PSAT 8/9. The number of students and the exact schools affect for this year’s larger roll out have not been announced. The only SATs affected, however, will be those administered on a school day to students as part of state/city-mandated testing. We do know that Ohio, in particular, will be the focus of digital testing in spring 2018. The quick digital ramp up for the SAT is in large part due to a newly announced partnership with American Institutes for Research, which already builds testing platforms for school districts. The regular Saturday administrations will not be affected this school year. ACT has done a similar small-batch testing, long-term roll out through at “school day” test centers for the last three years. “In 2016–17, 82,000 of the 1 million students who took the ACT through those programs took it online.”
What this means:
- Not a shocking announcement given that the College Board indicated earlier this year that it wanted to have a computer-based version of the exam available to test takers nationally within five years. We’ll be interested to see if the College Board is more successful at getting its product to market within its deadlines than the ACT has been. By partnering with a testing platform company (rather than building the platform in house) the CB may have shaved off quite a bit of time.
- Interviewed for the Ed Week piece, the head of the ACT claims that all international testers will take the ACT online in fall of 2018. Remember, this release was quietly pushed back a full year for undisclosed reasons recently. This is the first public confirmation that the ACT is on track for fall 2018.
More Students to Take SAT Online (EdWeek)
Northwestern and Georgetown Law Schools Accept GRE
Summary: Georgetown University Law Center (for students entering in 2018) and Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law (for students entering in 2019) both announced last week that they would accept GRE scores in place of LSAT scores. There are the first schools to join Harvard and Arizona in the move away from the LSAT. “The schools hope that by making it easier for the engineers, scientists and mathematicians who typically take only the GRE, more of them will enroll.” Both schools made the decision after they conducted individual studies showing the GRE predicted success rates at law school as well as the LSAT did. (Note that Northwestern’s study was conducted by ETS, which administers the GRE.) “The ABA is, however, considering a rules change that would permit law schools to use alternatives to the LSAT only if the ABA has determined the validity of the alternative test—something the ABA has yet to do with any test besides the LSAT.” Though, as Inside Higher Ed notes, such a rule change could take years.
What this means:
- Change is coming, and it seems to be happening quickly. Harvard announced its plan only five months ago, and now three of the top fifteen law schools in the country accept GRE scores.
- Northwestern hinted at the fact that it might go this way in an article back in May. The article also noted that the ETS study involved approximately a dozen law schools. Look for some of those schools to follow suit now that the biggest name on the study took the leap.
- The articles at Above the Law have a great, cheeky recap of the competition between LSAT and GRE if the topic is new to you.
Shaking Up Law School Admissions (Inside Higher Ed)
Northwestern Officially Accepting the GRE (Above the Law)
Georgetown Joins the List of Law Schools Accepting the GRE (Above the Law)