Every time I hear about big changes to the SAT, I think about Wake Forest.
Long-time test critic FairTest has a list of about 800 schools where the SAT (and its cousin, the ACT) are optional. (Some schools use the term "text flexible," which as far as I can tell is the same thing.)
Wake Forest, which went the test optional route in 2009, is probably the biggest name on that list. (Guilford College and Bennett College are both on there, too.) Wake Forest is actually pretty proud of its stance on the SAT, and it has the a blog to prove it.
If you read between the lines of Wednesday's news about the SAT, you find a test company that thinks its product is too complicated and out of touch with current K-12 and higher education goals, or at least perceived that way.
David Coleman, the head of the College Board, says that the revamped SAT will be "focused and useful, more clear and open than ever before." The implication, of course, is that the current test is unfocused, useless and clear as proverbial mud.
I thought Education Week had the most thorough and detailed writethru. (As they should. This is Super Bowl Sunday over there.)
I thought the Wall Street Journal take was right on: The SAT's biggest issue is market share, as more kids are taking the ACT than the SAT. Those numbers certainly got the College Board's attention.
I also flagged a quote that ran in the WSJ story. It's also from Coleman, who says: "Too many feel that the prevalence of test prep and expensive coaching reinforced privilege rather than merit." That's where Wake Forest and some of the other test-optional schools are coming from.
If you want to kick the SAT while it's down, check out a couple of things the Wake Forest media office brought to my attention: a 2011 book by Wake Forest sociology professor Joseph Soares entitled "The SAT Wars" (Soares argues that both tests are discriminatory); and a recent Q&A with Wake Forest admissions dean Martha Allman, who talks about a new study that says high school grades, not the SAT, are better predictors of college success.
There's a certain irony to Wake's indifference toward test scores. The SAT came about to help the Ivy League schools find bright kids from outside their traditional prep school pipelines. Wake Forest, at least according to its U.S. News rankings, is about as elite as they come.
But Wake Forest says its incoming classes are a lot more diverse — more low-income students, more racial minorities, more first-generation students — than they were when the university used to plug SAT scores into its admissions formula.
Wake Forest makes a compelling case for ditching test scores. If there's a time for universities to discuss the role of the SAT in admissions decisions, now's about as good a time as any.
(Well, not right now, not with all of these acceptance and rejection deadlines looming. You know what I meant.)
Updated, 4:25 p.m.: Wake Forest suggested a change toward the bottom of this post. Where it now says "indifference toward" test scores, it used to say "refusal to consider." I thought that's a fair change because Wake Forest will look at your test scores if you want them to; otherwise it won't.