Today’s guest post comes from our friend, Jesse Langley, who appeared here on the break between Christmas and New Years.  We welcome him back with this thought-provoking conversation piece on the place of the arts in our changing educational landscape.

With several new studies surfacing regarding the use of SAT scores for college admission, it’s not surprising that many liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 colleges now offer test score-optional submissions. Almost 900 schools are now on the SAT optional list. For schools specializing in the arts, evaluating students based on SAT scores may not be the way to measure students’ creative talent.

A new look at standardized testing

The key issue for many colleges and universities choosing to move away from the SAT has to do with standardization. While standardized testing helps schools determine which students adjust to a more rigorous and focused academic program, it also serves as a blind spot for other strengths and abilities. Making tests like the SAT optional can give students the choice to use other methods. Methods like essays, creative projects and interviews to showcase their talents.

In addition to top liberal arts colleges, many online degree programs don’t require SAT scores and take a generally unorthodox approach to higher education. For students who thrive on freedom and autonomy, these alternative colleges can be a solid option for earning a degree while balancing personal responsibilities. Since every student has unique gifts and talents, the diversity of higher education opportunities is a great way to incorporate the variety of skills found among students.

The SAT has a tendency to leave students behind, because no portion of the test measures creative or artistic abilities. A math wiz can show off his or her talent. The same way an excellent writer can evidence his or her ability. However, these subject areas, fail to address the wide variety of talent existing in high schools. 

Many schools that allow optional standardized test score submissions often require, or offer substitutions for, a test score. This gives students the opportunity to submit a portfolio of artwork or a video that expresses their creative talents. Colleges and universities offering these options also benefit from a more diverse student body . In addition to, a faculty encouraged to try new teaching methods.

The future of admissions

Alternatives to SAT score submissions allow admissions officials to evaluate students on a more personal level. Numbers have a way of dehumanizing individuals. Thus, making it difficult to properly assess the positive effect a student might bring to the school. Although it may be more challenging for admissions officials to critique artistic submissions, doing so steps in the right direction. 

As SAT scores primarily cater to future evaluations of the school itself, this new trend in optional score submissions can revolutionize the way top schools in the country are measured.

This is not to say we should abolish standardized test score submissions; many students perform exceptionally well on the test and we should recognize their success. There simply are other tools to evaluate intellect and capability. Thankfully, liberal arts colleges are discovering this and seem to be benefiting from the change.