Sept. 22, 2008— -- Officials of some of the country's most prestigious universities are recommending that admissions officers pay much less attention to SATs, urging schools to consider dropping the tests as a requirement for admittance.
The commission, led by Harvard's dean of admissions and financial aid, William Fitzsimmons, and convened by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said the SAT and ACT tests are not accurate measures of students' achievements and are "not optimal tools for admission in 2008."
"Colleges and universities already have all the tools they need -- good, old fashioned GPA," said Jesse Mermell of Fair Test, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to preventing what it calls "the misuses and flaws" of standardized tests. "They don't need a snapshot of a student filling in bubbles on a Saturday morning."
Instead, the group recommends focusing on exams more closely tied to high school curriculum.
The recommendation to move away from standardized tests comes amid growing criticism that students are less focused on studies and more focused on beating the test.
Last year, 1,518,859 students took the SATs, according to the College Board, which monitors the exam, creating a frenzy that is feeding the $4 billion test-prep business. This year, $50 million will be spent for online tutoring alone.
Millions more are spent on group classes. Prices for popular prep courses, like Kaplan, can cost $999, and private tutoring comes to $4,350 for 20 hours. Critics say that's unfair.
"There is a direct correlation [between] how much money a family has to how high their test scores are going to go up," Mermell said.
But executives with the College Board say the test is fair and is more necessary now than ever, because the number of students with an A average has doubled in the last 20 years.
"That's rampant grade inflation. So, colleges need a fair national benchmark to assess students," College Board senior vice president Laurence Bunin said. "The best predictor for college success is the SAT and high school grades."
A statement released by the commission says that advanced placement tests, international baccalaureate exams and subject tests are better suited as criteria for admission than the SATs, and don't have the same preparation price tag.
More than 700 colleges, including Wake Forest University and Bates University, no longer require the SAT or ACT entrance exam. And with the commission's recommendations, other universities may feel justified to drop the tests -- bursting the bubble that's hung over so many students' heads for generations.