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Windy City wisdom

New York Teacher

“Testing is not the be-all and end-all.”

That statement would not be surprising coming from a teacher who sees subject mastery in a student’s class performance and work portfolio or from a parent in the opt-out movement. Both know that a child is more than a score on a high stakes test.

But those words were uttered by the dean of admissions and financial aid at the University of Chicago, after the announcement that the university would drop the requirement for SAT or ACT scores for applicants.

It’s a big deal in higher education. The University of Chicago is one of the most selective universities in the country, a private institution that admits fewer than 10 percent of applicants. In the words of one news report, Chicago is “the first top-10 research university to join the test-optional movement.” According to the university’s website, students will decide what information best represents their skills and college readiness and will be able to submit nonstandard materials and accomplishments as supplements to their application.

The goal, university officials say, is to recruit more students from lower- and middle-income families, and they are matching the new policy with more financial aid and scholarships.

It’s not hard to see the lesson for New York City as it debates changing entrance requirements to the city’s specialized high schools, including Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech, which require applicants to ace one test. Test scores tell a very limited story about student potential and achievement.

The UFT has long sought to expand the pool of applicants — and promote diversity — by making sure the top students from all the city’s middle schools are considered for admission and by offering free prep materials online and other academic support for 8th-graders seeking entry, so that more middle-school students get a fair shot.

The idea that academic excellence can be identified by only one test is misguided and deeply unfair to the students of New York City.

Related Topics: Testing, Income Inequality