National Urban League, Businesses Call on Colleges To De-Emphasize Testing
Some of the nation’s leading companies are joining the National Urban League in a call to halt the pervasive use of standardized tests in college admissions.
Assessments such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test are of little importance in determining future leaders, the corporate officials said in a survey released recently in Washington. The Urban League commissioned the study to examine business views on the SAT and other standardized tests, which can be a barrier to college access for students of color.
Only 4 percent of corporate leaders viewed standardized test scores as very important for an individual’s long-term success. Moreover, 59 percent say they believed that “less weight” or “much less weight” should be placed on standardized test scores.
“Long-term success is determined by an individual’s ability to solve problems creatively,” not by standardized tests, says Donna A. James, an HBCU graduate and now executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, Ohio.
James, a graduate of North Carolina A&T University, joined National Urban League President Hugh Price in unveiling a letter from corporate leaders urging colleges to reduce their emphasis on the SAT and similar tests.
The letter did not call for abolishing the SAT, but the corporate leaders urged that colleges take into account factors such as creativity, motivation, persistence and leadership skills.
“We are writing to urge you to stop the over-reliance on college entrance exams and to use admissions tools that better measure the qualities that truly point to a student’s potential for achieving future success within — and beyond — the classroom,” says the letter from executives at Gillette, Revlon, Sears, Verizon Communications and other companies.
The letter follows a survey of chief executive officers, chief financial officers, vice presidents and other executives at Fortune 1000 companies. In the survey, conducted for the Urban League by social and marketing research firm DYG Inc., business leaders identified character and leadership as most important for future success in business.
About 91 percent identified character as the most important attribute for a business leader, while 76 percent cited leadership and 88 percent listed communications.
Yet only 4 percent cited standardized test scores as important, and only 20 percent gave much weight to student grades. Just 23 percent believed advanced degrees were important to long-term business success.
Such evidence points to a need for colleges to give less weight to testing in admissions.
“The trouble is that colleges and universities these days are stressing SAT scores far more heavily than the test designers say they should,” Price says. “This is shortsighted on the part of institutions.”
The league, he says, is calling on colleges to “temper their obsession with SAT scores.”
Already, nearly 300 colleges and universities have eliminated or reduced SAT and ACT requirements for admissions. Business leaders praised this move, since these colleges are emphasizing high school records, personal interviews, community service and other issues “to evaluate the whole person.”
Moreover, asked to recall their own SAT scores, most executives said they did not have the high board scores that would all but guarantee admission to a selective institution. James, the North Carolina A&T graduate, recalled her scores as about 1040, a score that ranks about average among college attendees.
“The purpose of the admissions process is more than picking the next batch of academic stars in undergraduate school,” Price says. “We are in the business of choosing leaders for the next century. When the pool shrinks because of excessive reliance on standardized tests, it’s the business world that suffers, not just our young people.”
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