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Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" SAT Policy Results in Diversity Gains

Inside Higher Ed: The Impact of Dropping the SAT:

A new research study -- based on simulations using actual student applications at competitive colleges that require the SAT or ACT for admission -- has found that ending the requirement would lead to demonstrable gains in the percentages of black and Latino students, and working class or economically disadvantaged students, who are admitted.

The finding is consistent with what admissions officers have reported at many colleges that have gone SAT-optional. But the basis of this new research goes well beyond the anecdotal information reported by colleges pleased with their shifts. Scholars at Princeton University's Office of Population Research obtained actual admissions data from seven selective colleges that require the SAT or ACT. Using the actual admissions patterns for these colleges, the scholars then ran statistical models showing the impact of either going SAT-optional or adopting what they called the "don't ask, don't tell" approach in which a college says that it won't look at standardized test scores.

These models suggest that any move away from the SAT or ACT in competitive colleges results in significant gains in ethnic and economic diversity. But the gains are greater for colleges that drop testing entirely, as opposed to just making it optional. (To date, only one institution -- Sarah Lawrence College -- has taken that step.)

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But it would also change the results if the schools didn't look at grades, wouldn't it? In the absence of evidence that a particular test is biased, I don't see how selectively ignoring it solves the problem. Either it is valid or it isn't: if it is, we should use it, and if not, it should be abolished, altogether.

Posted by: mike livingston | Mar 27, 2009 11:15:39 AM

The unstated assumption with standardized tests is that it is a measure of both potential and success. This is a false assumption. The reasons for success or failure on a standardized test are many. For instance, some students are exceptionally bright and merit a high score; other students may be skilled at exam taking and therefore perform well despite their less than stellar academic record; other students may simply have gotten lucky and did better than reasonably expected.

Colleges and Universities should select students on a broad range of criteria. To continue placing the traditional heavy emphasis on standardized tests ignores the contributions that students from all backgrounds can bring to the academic experience. I encourage our colleges and universities to continue deemphasizing standardized tests in favor of factors that are better aligned with each school's academic mission.

Posted by: Art | Mar 28, 2009 5:22:08 AM

The purpose of SATs is to predict success in college. They do a reasonably good job at that, certainly better than high school GPA unweighted by the caliber of classmates.

The unstated assumption is that college admission increases the probability of future success. If this is true, why not make admission completely random, using a lottery? That's the only truly fair way to do it.

The reason admissions are not random is that any college that so completely turned its back on academic excellence would be shunned by parents as an inferior choice. And the parents pay for all this.

I believe that the elite colleges are living on their reputations for excellence, spending this goodwill down year by year. Past excellence relative to other colleges was achieved by being much less willing to admit students who were destined to struggle not to flunk out. Today many low-tier colleges are glorified high schools, providing little more than a convenient place for kids to party.

Parents will soon realize that the value of college education in general, and both elite and low-tier college education in particular, is vastly overrated. By the time you've been working 5 years, nobody cares what college you went to. They only care what you can do for the company and how hard you work. Except for technical education such as medical school, college doesn't help much with either of these crucial criteria.

For those of you who require a law degree to qualify for your job, please accept my condolences.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Mar 31, 2009 12:24:29 PM