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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Abandoning The SAT - Fraud or Folly?

Interesting discussion about universities ending use of the SAT at Wake Forest (presumably applicable to the ACT - which I took, and scored crazy high on) at Minding the Campus:

Among the countless studies done on this subject over the years, not a single one has failed to find a high correlation between SAT scores and academic performance in college, as measured by grades or persistence. On a personal note, during my ten years as Provost of SUNY, I had my institutional research staff repeatedly review the relationship between SAT scores and academic success among our 33 baccalaureate campuses and their 200,000 + students, and found - as all the national research has confirmed - a near perfect correlation. SUNY schools and students with higher SAT profiles had higher grade point averages and markedly higher graduation rates. ...

How about purported class and race biases? There is no question that poor and minority students do less well on SAT tests than affluent and non-minority students. But the fault lies not with the tests, but with the quality of education - and perhaps cultural and social factors - to which poor and minority students are exposed. There is absolutely no evidence that such students, when admitted on other non-test criteria, have greater academic success in college than would have been predicted by their SATs. What colleges really mean when they assert that their poor or minority enrollees do well despite low SAT scores is that, with sufficient additional counseling and academic assistance (and maybe some covert grade inflation), they can get such students to succeed.

I first got the Wake Forest story from my brother, here is my amended take on the issue:

It’s all about promoting a “diverse” and “multicultural” image. It isn't so much about getting rich students with low scores [my brother's theory], since the taxpayers pick up much of the bloated tuition for low-income students. Usually this means admitting minority students with lower academic credentials than Whites and Asians – which explains high dropout/low matriculation rates among African-American and Hispanic students.

Most studies do find the SAT to be a good predictor of academic performance, especially when taking high school grades into account (there are some students who test poorly, but do well in the classroom, but generally the SAT measures how college-ready students are).

By Wake Forest’s logic, grades will soon be eliminated as well, because they prevent disadvantaged students from earning a college degree.

To counter, I would suggest having SAT results before entrance, and post graduation as well, in order to measure how much students learn. The “best colleges” on the US News (and other rankings), are so largely because they only admit the best students, not because they teach them the most. Schools like Wake, if they wish, should feel free to admit students with low SAT scores and try to turn them into high performers, rather than dance around standard measures of academics.

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