CPS still pushing test prep, while more colleges go test optional

In spite of the fact that Chicago city colleges and many four-year colleges that CPS students will attend do not require a minimum SAT score — with Northern Illinois University just joining the ranks of those going test-blind or test-optional for admissions — CPS school administrators are still pushing test prep onto teachers.

In neighborhood high schools throughout Chicago, teachers are required to schedule Khan Academy test prep practice for students and take professional development sessions that require them to group students in test score bands and write out their methods for incorporating College Board suggestions to move students to the next test score level.

But test scores don't matter, university officials are now declaring. A growing group of state universities and selective colleges are minimizing the role of SAT and ACT scores in admissions.

“Once we know a high school student’s GPA, one standardized test score is irrelevant,” NIU Provost Beth Ingram said in a statement on Jan. 29. “We believe that this will encourage good students to focus on getting the most out of their high school classes.”

The Chicago Tribune reported the following (in addition to the above NIU statements):

Seniors with at least a 3.0 GPA will automatically be accepted to NIU. Those applying to NIU’s honors program also no longer will need to submit scores.

“This new policy comes from our deep commitment to making a college education both accessible and equitable for a broad and diverse student population,” NIU President Lisa Freeman said in a statement. “It reflects our efforts campus-wide to eliminate unnecessary and biased barriers throughout a student’s educational path.”

NIU is the only university locally to eliminate test scores, but several others have adopted “test-optional” admissions. The University of Chicago became the first top-tier school to do so, implementing the policy in 2018. DePaul University also has made test scores optional for its applicants since 2012.

More recently, Southern Illinois University Carbondale announced in December it will implement test-optional admissions. Western Illinois University in Macomb also is test-optional and changed its policies in the fall to guarantee admission to students with more than a 3.3. GPA.

College officials long would try to reassure students that the admissions process involves far more than test scores, saying grades, essays and other materials gave a better picture of a student’s capabilities. Still, some admissions officials said it was difficult to convey that message until their schools dropped the test score requirement.

“Standardized tests are not necessarily a reflection of how successful a student is, or can be,” Western’s Interim President Martin Abraham said in October. “We feel that the grade point average is a good indicator of a student’s academic ability as the GPA encompasses not just grades achieved on exams, but for projects, homework and more. It’s a reflection of the work a student puts into his/her overall schoolwork in order to be successful.”

See the full Chicago Tribune report here.

See Substance's report on the University of Chicago's decision to go test-opitional in June 2018 here.


February 6, 2020 at 6:20 PM

By: Jim Vail

Test scores

Also note that universities like Northern IL & Southern IL have a lot less students. So the dwindling student populations is not only affecting CPS.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

2 + 1 =