Schools go beyond test scores when evaluating students

Some adding questionnaires to measure perseverance, adaptability, judgement

By Paul Giorgio - Producer

ORLANDO, Fla. - Universities traditionally rely on standardized test scores to help decide which students to accept, but with an average graduation rate of about 59 percent at four-year schools, administrators are starting to rethink the selection process.

[WEB EXTRA: Schools that don't use ACT, SAT scores ]

Many colleges and universities now want to know a whole lot more about applicants than their ACT and SAT results before asking them to attend.

High school junior Gabe Doyle isn't stressing over standardized test scores while he looks at colleges.

He says tests don't define who he is.

It helps that he knows several of the schools he'd like to attend are playing down the importance of the ACT and SAT.

Bob Schaeffer with FairTest.org says that over the past decade about 110 more bachelor degree-granting institutions have dropped their test score requirements.

These days schools are adding other systems, including special questionnaires to help them figure out who has what it takes to finish a four-year degree.

"I think universities have always tried to measure these kinds of things through essays and personal interviews." Schaeffer says. "Those procedures often were not systematically used and scored."

The goal of these new assessments is to measure things like perseverance, adaptability and situational judgement.

Neal Schmitt, professor of psychology at Michigan State University says an example of such a test could be monitoring group activity.

"One example is you're assigned to work in a group on a particular project and when you sit down together nobody says anything. What are you most and least likely to do?" he said. "A bad option is to look at them until somebody eventually says something. A good option is to get to know everybody first and make sure the project's goals are understood by everybody."

The answers help give the school a better feel for the kind of person applying.

 "If they do really badly on our situational judgement measure," Schmitt says." The attribution might be that the person isn't that mature interpersonally and really doesn't know what the academic scene might be like, and so we might hesitate."

FairTest.org says this evaluation helps many students who might not be able to afford tutoring and coaching to improve standardized test scores.

"Several schools are now experimenting with questionnaires that ask about an individual's interest in certain behaviors." FairTest's Bob Schaeffer says.  "And they're  able to build a profile of the student that is quite predictive of how well they'll do in college and in life."

Gabe Doyle will be taking the standardized tests but his mom likes knowing some schools use additional tools to decide whether or not to send that acceptance letter.

"It takes the edge off," she says. "And allows us to look at it in a less high-pressure way and enjoy the process of going to different colleges, talking to people."

Other recent research by Griffith University has found personality is more important than intelligence when it comes to success in education. in that study, researchers compared character to intelligence, showing conscientiousness and openness as more highly correlated with student performance than intelligence.

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