Global assessment nonprofit Educational Testing Service (ETS) announced “massive downsizing” in mid-June, representing the second round of job cuts in under a year and fifth in the last five. [Inside Higher Ed]

Catch up quick: This news comes after the signing of a new contract with College Board, under which ETS will no longer administer the SAT after nearly two decades. According to a FY 2023 audit, the contract with College Board accounts for about one-third of ETS’ total revenue.

Zoom in: This switch-up reflects changing standardized testing norms. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing found that more than 80%—or over 1,800—of U.S. colleges and universities will remain test-optional or test-blind for the 2025-26 admissions cycle. And fewer students are submitting test scores at all: recent research from the Common App revealed that growth in students not reporting test scores is “meaningfully faster” than students reporting test scores.

Strategic Evolution

ETS is making an effort to retool to respond to 21st-century assessment needs. Since Amit Sevak took over as CEO in 2022, ETS has acquired two companies, Wheebox and PSI, to expand its global reach and delve into the world of workforce certification. As more employers shift to skills-based hiring practices, demand rises for skills validation, or standardized assessments of job-oriented competencies.

  • This week, HR Brew reported that ETS is partnering with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to develop new assessments and tools to help HR teams gauge the skills of their workforce. These new resources will help businesses clarify what subject areas in need of upskilling, target training opportunities, and evaluate candidates during the hiring process.
  • Earlier this year, ETS released a report called “Charting the Future of Assessments,” which asserted that lifelong learning and workforce-related measurement (e.g., skills validation, badging, credentialing) are new frontiers for assessment.

The big picture: Layoffs are an unfortunate outcome for workers, but a means to an end as ETS charts a new course in search of long-term sustainability. In an interview with Education Week, Sevak said of the future of assessment: “There’s much more of an awareness that education inside the classroom is only a small portion of the totality of learning and education that one gets… How do we start to capture and give recognition, badging, credentialing, for learning that’s happening outside?”