The real crisis in college admissions

But don’t expect an ongoing fallout from “Operation Varsity Blues” – the extensive investigation of 2019 that revealed the curved length of time the super-rich are going to get their kids into the best schools to fix the big system.

I wrote last week about the ongoing debate over whether SAT and ACT exacerbate the huge inequality in colleges. After the Massachusetts Institute of Technology restored its SAT / ACT requirement, I looked at the argument that those who hate the standard test might be wrong and trust in schools like MIT that test scores. Help them enhance the diversity on campus.

This week, we look The opposite view.

I spoke with Paul Tuff, who wrote in detail about college admission. His book “The Inequality Machine: How College Divides Us” has been widely reported – reporting it led Tuff to praise the end of the standard test. Requirements for many colleges.

Below is our conversation on a series of lightly edited emails that have been combined and edited.

Do not believe the propaganda about SAT / ACT

What’s important: I was amazed that MIT was reinstating its SAT / ACT requirement to preserve diversity. What is your reaction to that argument?

Strict: I do not think it’s right to restore the MIT SAT to preserve diversity. MIT’s Admissions Office was able to enroll in a freshman class in 2021 without the need for SAT, as it had done in previous years when it was required.

MIT’s admissions staff are well aware that SAT scores are twice as strong as family income, predicting high school grades. The most effective way to recognize a more socio-economically diverse class is to place more emphasis on high school grades and lower test scores.

The real reason MIT is reinstating the SAT is because it really enrolls students who get very high scores on the SAT! Prior to Pandemic, almost all MIT students had a math of 780 or higher in the SAT. Those super-high test scores were an important part of MIT’s identity, and if MIT left SAT forever, it would lose that identity.

So, it is not surprising that the school exam requirement has been brought back. Standard tests are an important part of who the school is. Other colleges define themselves differently.

What the UC report on SAT / ACT actually says

what’s the matter: I was doubly surprised to see a large university in California Research It is suggested to maintain SAT / ACT. (Ultimately the Board of Regents ignored it.) Congratulations on eliminating the need for UC testing. What did you think of that UC report?

Strict: A few years ago, when the University of California discussed the loss of SAT, various groups at the University studied the results of the tests and came to widely different conclusions.

The UC Senate report did not find that the use of SAT increased diversity in access to the UC. It found that “inequalities based on racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic status (SES) in university graduate students are the work of multiple factors and that SAT and ACT make small contributions” (p. 6).

So in other words, the report found that SAT contributed to the inequality of race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status in access, but there were some other factors that made it worse.

The Senate report claims, perhaps more controversially, that test scores are a better predictor of college success than high school GPAs. This is something that even the college board does not claim; Their research has always found that high school GPA alone is a better predictor than SAT. So that claim attracted a lot of attention, and a lot of disagreement.

My persuasive research of other UC professors includes:

  • This paper by Sol Geiser of Berkeley found that the central finding of the Senate report was “a statistical error of a classic methodological error.” Geyser writes, “When student demographics are included in the model, the findings are reversed: high school grades in college preparatory courses are actually a strong predictor of UC student outcomes.” In UC, he also found that family income was associated with a SAT / ACT score three times higher than a high school GPA.
  • This report, by Michal Kurlaender and Kramer Cohen of UC Davis, finds that high school GPAs are a stronger predictor of first-year college GPA and second-year stability than SAT in California state university schools, and that school GPA, SAT … This leads to higher representation of low-income and under-represented minority students at the forefront of UC applicants than scores. “
  • This appendix by Patricia Gandara on UCLA, one of the authors of the Faculty Senate Report, misrepresents and misinterprets the report’s conclusions. They wrote, “Test scores have a disproportionate impact on applicants to UC who are members of groups that existed in the past and are now subject to discrimination. Therefore, we support the exclusion of scores from these standard tests. Less than the nine-year period the report envisages.” That dissenting view is not included in the official report.

Is there no better admission test or exam?

What’s important: Opposition of SAT/ Act There is a lot to do with the tests themselves. Your reporting suggests that there should be a different test or not Everything?

Strict: Different standard tests produce similar results. ACT scores are just as strongly linked to family income as SAT scores.

In some cases, standardized tests can be a useful part of a student’s application, but what they require will always make the college more inclined to admit richer children and lower – income children.

Measurement of removal from pandemic tests was difficult

What’s important: SAT /Act Has access been affected during the outbreak?

Strict: This is hard to say, for the past few years college admissions have been very difficult due to the pandemic.

There is some evidence that the SAT exemption allowed some selective colleges to admit academically superior low-income students. But I do not yet know any strong evidence of any kind.

Reason to be skeptical of grade inflation

What’s important: Many schools refer to MIT grade inflation because it is test-optional, a college counselor told me, and the problem is real, especially in schools with children from rich backgrounds. What are your thoughts on that issue?

Strict: Advocates of standard testing have been arguing about grade inflation for decades. I have written a little more about it in my book.

I have my doubts about the manipulation of grade inflation. All the evidence I have seen indicates that test scores are increasing as fast as high school grades. An example: The share of high school seniors who score 36 in ACT is now 37 times larger than it was 20 years ago.

Grades still need to work to measure students

What’s important: What? Blog post It was suggested that students who are not particularly well versed in mathematics may not be able to adapt to the school’s strict mathematics curriculum. What better way than SAT / ACT to ensure that incoming students have the background to succeed in those subjects?

Strict: I do not know what MIT’s internal research says, but I guess students’ successful completion and high grades in high school math classes will be the best indication of their ability to succeed in high school math and science. Classes.

There is no reason for optimism here

What’s important: We still see news from the Varsity Blues scandal where rich people are buying coaches, fake apps and test scores. Has the admission game gotten better since that scandal broke out?

Strict: I do not know.

What’s important: In your book, you critique the rankings from US News & World Report. Have their influence been tested in recent years?

Strict: I do not know.

Capacity is the biggest problem

What’s important: What is the biggest problem in American higher education: ability or choice?

Hardness: Capacity. The real tragedy in American higher education is that over the past two decades, we have cut funding for our public colleges and universities, making it more expensive and inaccessible to the working class and low-income students.

To solve this problem, we need to reinvest the public dollar in our public higher education, from community colleges to selected flagships.

Whether with a certificate in HVAC technology or a doctorate in quantum engineering, our goal should be to create clear and cost-effective pathways after high school for millions of Americans to receive the education they need for a successful life.

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