LPI Research Shows How College Admissions That Utilize Authentic Student Work Can Advance Equity and Diversity
With the new school year on the horizon and in light of the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action, the topic of equity in college admissions has never been more relevant. LPI’s research shares examples of admissions processes that use student portfolios and performance assessments to inform effective and equitable admission, placement, and advising decisions.Performance assessments are an approach to educational assessment that enables students to demonstrate what they know and are able to do through open-ended tasks. This demonstration can include, among other things, writing an analytical essay, conducting a science investigation, creating a curated portfolio of work, or presenting the results of an original research paper. The following research sheds light on the use of performance assessments in K-12 settings and in higher education admissions. 

The Promise of Performance Assessments describes innovations in high school and higher education assessments, including the value of performance assessments in providing K-12 schools, colleges, and universities with insights about what students know and can do. The brief explores state and local policies that support the use of these assessments, along with emerging higher education efforts to incorporate them in college admission, placement, and advising. Importantly, performance assessments also have promise for better reflecting the achievements of historically underserved students, which in turn may help institutions identify promising candidates who might have been overlooked by traditional measures.

Assessing College Readiness Through Authentic Student Work describes the history, context, implementation, and early results of a unique college admissions pilot in which 25 colleges in the City University of New York (CUNY) system and high schools in the New York Performance Standards Consortium—which use performance-based assessments to assess student progress—have collaborated to add authentic evidence of student learning to the college admissions process. Early evidence showed that students in Consortium schools who began high school more educationally and economically disadvantaged than their peers were more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. Students admitted to CUNY through the Consortium–CUNY pilot on average achieved higher first-semester college GPAs and persisted in college at higher rates than peers from other New York City schools, even though the latter had higher SAT scores. These results suggest that a more holistic review of admission applications that include evidence of student work can help identify students with strong potential to succeed in college.

Authentic Student Work in College Admissions looks at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and describes how it requests, collects, and reviews portfolios of student work along with traditional application materials as a part of the undergraduate admissions process. The case illuminates the use of student-generated portfolios as one possible model for other higher education systems seeking to evolve their holistic admission processes.