Jun 17 2020

Newsletter: June 2020

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) is partnering with EducationCounsel and Education First in a national effort to support the use of k–12 performance assessments, such as student portfolios and capstone projects, in higher education admissions, placement, and advising decisions. The Reimagining College Access (RCA) initiative brings together a diverse group of k–12 and higher education policy and practice leaders. They have converged around the idea that both systems can benefit from authentic and holistic ways of assessing students’ competencies and mastery of skills needed for college, work, and life in the 21st century.

This newsletter provides periodic updates on the work of the RCA initiative and features promising work in the field.

Jump to: RCA Webinar Series  |  Higher Education Institutions Across the Nation Are Choosing to Go Test Optional  |  New Report on School Profiles

 RCA Webinar Series

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, RCA is hosting a series of virtual events to help bring our community together and continue our important work. In speaking with our National Advisory Board and other collaborators this spring, we heard a reinvigorated commitment to the idea of reimagining college access and success as the pandemic is, in many ways, permanently changing the landscape of k–12 and higher education.

Our webinar series, Reimagining College Access and Success, is designed to offer relevant evidence, strategies, and resources on performance assessment for k–12 educators, higher education officials, and policymakers navigating this unprecedented moment.

Included below is a summary of our May 27 webinar, "Using Performance Assessment in College Admissions,” as well as information on our upcoming June 23 webinar.

May 27, 2020—Using Performance Assessment in College Admissions

On Wednesday, May 27, close to 400 attendees representing areas of k–12 education, higher education, and education policy and research joined the first installment in the Reimagining College Access and Success series. This webinar looked at the outcomes of a pilot program at City University of New York (CUNY) that uses performance assessments to admit qualified applicants with college entry exam scores below CUNY’s typical admissions threshold. The discussion was based on findings from a forthcoming Learning Policy Institute report on the use of these assessments for equity and access in the CUNY system.

During the webinar, speakers specifically discussed the following:

  • The use of performance assessment in k–12 education, as well as research-based ways in which higher education institutions can successfully use such assessments for admissions decisions
  • Findings from the new LPI report, including data on the improved retention and success of CUNY students whose performance assessments were part of the admissions application
  • Implications for postsecondary opportunity, access, and success when performance assessment is used in k–12 preparation and higher education admissions

Speakers included:

  • Monica Martinez (moderator), Director of Strategic Initiatives, Learning Policy Institute
  • Linda Darling-Hammond, President and CEO, Learning Policy Institute
  • Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Critical Psychology, Women’s Studies, American Studies, and Urban Education, City University of New York Graduate Center
  • Joanna Kucharski, Associate Director of Admissions and Recruitment, City University of New York

Watch the recorded webinar >> 
Read the webinar summary >>

June 23, 2020—Performance Assessment in College Admissions: How Students Show What They Know and Can Do

Join us on Tuesday, June 23, for the second webinar in the Reimagining College Access and Success series. This session will highlight two New England institutions—the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Wheaton College—that have broadened their approaches to admissions decisions by incorporating performance assessments into their applications.

Speakers will share how they integrate performance assessment in their admissions processes and what lessons they have learned from doing so. They will also discuss their experiences with SlideRoom and the Common App, which have provided platforms that enable students to submit performance assessments with their applications. Speakers include:

  • Monica Martinez (moderator), Director of Strategic Initiatives, Learning Policy Institute
  • Scott Anderson, Senior Director, Common App
  • Judy Purdy, Director of Admission, Wheaton College
  • Stu Schmill, Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Register for the webinar >>

The third installment of the Reimagining College Access and Success webinar series is in development for later this summer. To be notified of future webinars, please join our mailing list.

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 Higher Education Institutions Across the Nation Are Choosing to Go Test Optional

In the last several months, we have seen a steady increase in the number of postsecondary institutions adopting test-optional or test-flexible policies. So far in 2020, more than 150 additional colleges and universities have chosen to adopt these policies, meaning that more than 1,200 institutions now have these policies in effect across the United States.

Many of these recent decisions are temporary (i.e., just for the high school class of 2021) and are in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic (and the cancellation of many SAT/ACT administrations), which is disrupting education at all levels and sparking renewed conversations about equity and access.

Some institutions, however, are taking this time to reevaluate their admissions practices more generally. For example, Boston University is starting with a test-optional policy for the class of 2021, and then reviewing that policy in spring 2021 to determine how to approach their admissions practices for the next cycle.

Others, such as Tufts University, the College of William and Mary, and the University of Connecticut (UConn), are taking this time to engage in a 3-year test-optional pilot to determine the future of their admissions policies. In their official statement, UConn said the goal of their pilot is “studying whether the policies influence its student success rates and increase accessibility to talented students who otherwise face barriers associated with the tests.”

Institutions across the country are also making long-term decisions about their admissions practices. In a unanimous vote last month, the University of California (UC) Board of Regents decided on changes that all nine of its campuses will implement. According to an announcement from the UC Office of the President, UC committed to the following:

  • Test-optional for fall 2021 and fall 2022: Campuses will have the option to use ACT/SAT test scores in selection consideration if applicants choose to submit them, and will develop appropriate policies and procedures to implement the Board’s decision.
  • Test-blind for fall 2023 and fall 2024: Campuses will not consider test scores for California public and independent high school applicants in admissions selection, a practice known as “test-blind” admissions. Test scores could still be considered for other purposes such as course placement, certain scholarships and eligibility for the statewide admissions guarantee.
  • New standardized test: Starting in summer 2020 and ending by January 2021, UC will undertake a process to identify or create a new test that aligns with the content UC expects students to have mastered to demonstrate college readiness for California freshmen.
  • Elimination of the ACT/SAT test requirement: By 2025, any use of the ACT/SAT would be eliminated for California students and a new UC-endorsed test to measure UC-readiness would be required. However, if by 2025 the new test is either unfeasible or not ready, consideration of the ACT/SAT for freshman admissions would still be eliminated for California students.
  • Elimination of writing test: The University will eliminate altogether the SAT Essay/ACT Writing Test as a requirement for UC undergraduate admissions, and these scores will not be used at all effective for fall 2021 admissions.

Other institutions making permanent changes include the University of Oregon and the University of San Diego, both of which announced their new test-optional policies for students applying for the fall 2021 freshman class.

RCA firmly believes that any institution—regardless of its policy on college entry exams—can benefit from considering the use of k–12 performance assessments in admissions, placement, and advising. Given this recent momentum around reevaluating admission policies with an eye toward advancing equity and increasing access, RCA remains committed to continuing the conversation about the role that k–12 performance assessments can play.

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 New Report on School Profiles

Given the widespread disruption of k–12 curriculum and instruction in 2020, a renewed focus on school profiles offers one way to think about communicating changes to high school students’ learning experiences and records. In April 2020, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) released their report, Best Practices for Developing a School Profile. According to the authors, this report “serves as a compilation of feedback, guidelines, and best practices from hundreds of experienced counseling and educational professionals.”

Among its listed best practices, NACAC recommends that secondary schools include a curriculum description, including special features, on their school profile. This best practice includes details on the importance of describing performance assessments, saying “components of, as well as requirements for, these assessments should be clearly described so that admissions officers can understand the full depth of a student’s educational experience.” The full report, in addition to a repository of more than 1,200 school profile examples, can be found on NACAC’s website.

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