Maryland’s University System Board of Trustees voted Friday to clear the way for its 12 universities to remove the requirement for prospective students to provide their standardized SAT or ACT scores for admission.
Although the 12 universities still have the autonomy to set their own admissions standards, Friday’s vote removes language requiring schools to consider test scores in their admissions practices.
According to Joann Boughman, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at USM, the change comes after much consideration and reflects national trends. All schools in the USM system had already moved to an optional testing model, many during the coronavirus pandemic when testing was less available.
“It wasn’t necessarily our choice to go for this option, but over the past two years we’ve had to accept very many students into our system who didn’t have SAT or ACT scores,” Boughman said. .
She added that other factors, such as GPA, are reasonably good, if not better, at predicting college success.
Spokesman Mike Lurie said the measure went 11-2 with two misses; Andy Smarick and Louis Pope voted against.
During the meeting, University of Maryland, College Park President Darryll Pines said standardized tests have a long history of disproportionate accessibility to minority communities.
“People of color tend to be biased against them by these tests, and they don’t get into schools,” Pines said Friday.
Several Baltimore-area schools, including UMBC, Towson University, University of Baltimore, and University of Maryland, have been elective for several years.
Freeman Hrabowski III, longtime president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said Friday he also supports the optional testing model, but stressed the importance of standardized testing overall.
“Especially for students of color, we need to find ways … to help them learn the skills they need to be successful on standardized tests, because when you think of medical school or law school or CPA or the nurse’s exam or the teacher’s exam, all of these tests are standardized,” Hrabowski said at the meeting.
UMBC became optional test early in pandemic; the first class that had the option was freshmen starting in fall 2021, said Yvette Mozie-Ross, vice president of enrollment management and planning.
“UMBC has completely embraced this,” she said, “and I’m so thrilled with what it means for us in terms of serving students in Maryland and beyond.”
UB moved to an optional testing model in 2019, so the vote won’t affect it much, spokesman Chris Hart said.
“The system is just catching up,” he said.
. Coppin State University said in an emailed statement that standardized testing is only a small part of a student’s overall admissions program.
“We understand that historically, standardized test scores have been a barrier for many students, and these tests show no significant impact on a student’s overall success in college,” the statement said. “The research is clear: the rigor of a student’s coursework, GPA, and extracurricular commitments most accurately reflect a student’s college readiness and ability to succeed.”
Salisbury University has offered optional tests since 2006. During the meeting, League President Charles Wight told the regents that before the pandemic, 30% of applicants to the university had not submitted their test results; this number rose to 80% during the pandemic.
Regent Smarick said the policy change could negatively impact the admissions process.
“One of the benefits of a test like SAT, your ACT is that it can help identify false negatives, students who by other measures are probably not ready,” Smarick said Friday. “But these students – because a lot of other things were lined up against them – didn’t have such a great GPA, didn’t get to do a lot of other things. But thanks to this test, we see that this student is off the charts in reading, off the charts in math.
In response to USM’s decision, Priscilla Rodriguez, senior vice president of college readiness assessments for College Board, the company that provides the SAT, said in an emailed statement that she welcomes of this change.
“We are thrilled that students continue to have the opportunity to do their best and submit their grades.” Rodriguez said in the email.
Nicholas Lemann, a Columbia University professor and author of “The Big Test,” said USM’s decision aligns with national trends.
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As The New York Times reported in March 2021, the University of California has decided to end the use of standardized tests in its admissions process.
Lemann said scrapping standardized tests wouldn’t have a big impact on college admissions. He also thinks there are systematic downsides to the standardized testing system.
“There is a real conflict between admissions testing and diversity,” he said. “There are racial and ethnic and, to some extent, gender gaps in testing. This has been a constant finding since the very beginning of testing 100 years ago. And so when you’re an institution that uses these tests and has diversity as its goal, they’re not entirely consistent with each other.