Should Independent School Admissions Be Test Optional? Here’s A Strong Argument | 11 Min Read

By Patrick F. Bassett, President (retired), NAIS, and Sanje Ratnavale, President, OESIS Network, Inc.

The inevitable conflict between exclusivity and equity came to the fore in a recent movement of Northern California independent schools to adopt a “test-optional” policy in admitting students into middle and secondary school. The issue is in sharp focus at the college admissions level, led in a burgeoning movement by colleges such as the University of Chicago and the UC system which have dropped requiring the SAT or ACT score submissions.

Let us look at five reasons why the time might be right for schools to consider that option in the independent school sector:

This research should be a powerful incentive to favor, in the name of socio-economic justice, lower socio-economic applicants who evidence over-achievement since evidence of academic “grit” and success in overcoming socio-economic disadvantage augers well for candidates in school, college, and life.

  1. Implicit Bias: The use of test scores by schools, specifically by teachers and admission officers, carries great dangers of implicit bias. Often, we have heard in our schools a teacher who makes some version of the following complaint to a principal or admission officer: “I don’t understand why this student was admitted ­—…
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Sanje Ratnavale

Sanje founded OESIS in 2012 and serves as the President of what has grown to become the leading network for innovation at independent schools: the acronym OESIS grew from the initial focus on Online Education Strategies for Independent Schools. He has held senior administrative positions at independent schools including Associate Head of School at a K-12 school for seven years, High School Principal for three years, and CFO for seven years. Prior to making a switch to education, Sanje spent 15 years in venture capital, investment banking, and senior C-level (CEO, COO, CFO) management. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford University (B.A. and M.A. in Law/Jurisprudence). Sanje is based out of Santa Monica.