The writer is vice president for enrollment management for Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln.
Starting next September, students wanting to improve their ACT score will be able to retake a single section of the five-part ACT test (“ACT Gives Colleges New Options to Superscore Tests,” Dec. 17 World Herald). The new policy may compel colleges and universities to enact a “superscoring” policy that combines a student’s highest score from individual sections each time the full test is taken, or beginning in September, as each single section of the test is completed. The change enables students to avoid taking the full three-hour exam while focusing to improve on their weaker sections of the test.
Although superscoring is seemingly a good opportunity for students, the practice is detrimental for low-income students and students from marginalized backgrounds. There has been long-standing racial, gender and economic bias in standardized tests. Students from wealthy families have access to test-prep courses, practice tests and have the time, as well as the financial means, to take multiple tests. ACT’s own internal research confirms a significant achievement gap between higher and lower income students.
Superscoring will only worsen the achievement gap, as students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds simply do not have the resources to keep up with their wealthy peers.
As the racial diversity of Nebraska is projected to grow, it is imperative that all students have the opportunity to achieve a college degree and contribute positively to Nebraska’s economic future.
Admission to college should serve all students. Superscoring will only fuel an over-emphasis on standardized tests and may leave behind a growing population of underrepresented, first-generation or low-income students who stand to benefit the most from the socioeconomic gain a college education provides.
Standardized test scores do not personify a student’s intellectual self-esteem or potential. A student’s work ethic within the classroom is the true measure of academic potential. In fact, the high school grade point average is the most predictive variable for success in college. Students should feel confident in the body of their work over four years and know it translates to success in college.
Nebraska Wesleyan University is one of more than 1,000 colleges and universities throughout the nation to offer a test-optional admission policy as detailed on the web site fairtest.org. NWU’s test-optional policy waives the ACT or SAT requirement and admission is based on a cumulative GPA of 3.50 or above. At NWU, we affirm a student’s academic potential by the grade point average, not a test score.
Nebraska Wesleyan is committed to an admission policy that carefully considers a student’s full academic profile, whether standardized testing is presented in the application or not. Most importantly, NWU’s admission policy will ensure access, equity and inclusion for all students.