For more than 60 years, The Enrollment Management Association (EMA) has been dedicated to serving our member schools and students, and we are committed to being a vocal, active partner in combating issues of inequity in education. These are concerning issues, and we take great pride in working collaboratively with our members for change. We are heartened that schools across the country are joining the call to usher in an era of fairness, access, and equity in education.
EMA’s commitment to access and fairness continued during the 2019-20 academic year by providing more than $2.3 million in fee waivers to students needing financial assistance and included free testing and related services. Fee waivers are available at no charge for any digital or paper-based SSAT test as well as the SSAT Practice Portal to help students prepare for and access the SSAT. Fee waivers also include the Character Skills Snapshot and EMA’s Admission Academy. Our fee waiver program benefited more than 7,600 families last year, and we are committed to continuing these efforts long into the future.
We acknowledge that there are objective, measurable gaps in testing performance by the educationally underserved and that should be one more note in the chords calling for change. This is why some schools have made the decision to limit, or remove, the role of testing, believing it worsens issues of equity and fairness in the admissions process. We hold a different position. We believe tests like the SSAT are valuable tools that help highlight the issues we must address.
Put directly, we believe that when standardized tests are used well as a part of a thoughtful, integrated process, we can reduce bias.
Certainly, our work recognizes that there are inherent biases in how test scores are used. Our job is to educate test score users on the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing and the proper use of test scores as defined by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME), and to help reduce those biases.
What we can’t fix, and what we find unacceptable, are the gaps in test results caused by economic and racial inequities. This is a systemic problem, but testing does not create that problem; rather, it brings the issue into a scientifically objective, unblinking focus.
Moreover, tests like the SSAT remain one of the most effective, objective tools available, especially since COVID-19-related issues have diminished the reliability of measurements like GPA. However, testing is just one tool among many that EMA makes available to its members. We believe that the best way to promote fairness is to incorporate several metrics — test scores, the Character Skills Snapshot, interviews, GPA, teacher recommendations, student essays, etc. — into an overall portrait of an applicant and to put in place processes and training aimed at reducing bias.
For our member schools who have made the decision to move to test optional or test blind, we are working to create and implement additional tools to address the schools’ needs, with the Character Skills Snapshot assessment as one such example. The Snapshot allows for students to self report on the seven aspects of their character that were determined important to school success by independent school admission officers. These are: teamwork, intellectual engagement, social awareness, initiative, open-mindedness, resilience, and self control.
We continuously look to innovate to serve our member schools. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your individual school’s needs and determine how we can help you reach your goals.
Because, when great schools enroll great students, everything is possible.