Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nerd Notes: Elite Colleges vs. Diversity vs. High SAT Test Scores

Hmmmmm. Here is a question for elite campuses...

High SAT test scores or diversity? Apparently you can't have your cake and eat it too. (Or can you?)

Elite colleges have been undermining their own efforts to diversify by giving much more weight to high SAT scores than they did before, according to an analysis of College Board data presented this morning at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association.

Over the past two or three decades, the share of freshman-class seats that elite colleges award to students with high SAT scores has risen significantly—and risen more quickly than the number of high scores, according to an analysis by Catherine L. Horn, an assistant professor of educational leadership and cultural studies at the University of Houston, and John T. Yun, an assistant professor of education at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

. . . The researchers say that, by focusing so heavily on high scorers, the elite colleges they examined are ignoring promising minority students with lesser scores, increasing the competition for high-scoring minority students, and potentially “simply ‘pricing’ themselves out of the ‘market’ for a more diverse learning environment.” Especially among the most prestigious of the 30 institutions, it is hard to believe that putting less emphasis on high SAT scores would cause the institutions’ quality to suffer.

The can of worms is OPEN! The fallout will not be pleasant. Slugfests over identity politics, educational standards, and affirmative action are never pleasant -- especially when combined.

My two cents' worth:

  1. SAT scores are arbitrary numbers, and I don't believe they or any other standardized exam can accurately gauge actual academic ability.
  2. On the other hand, I did fine on my SATs (among the "elite," according to the researchers of the study linked above).
  3. This report doesn't seem to say much about minority students who perform as well as (or better than) non-minority kids on the SAT. Apparently we don't matter because we PERFORM? What about the diversity that I (and people like me) add to a campus? Is it not "diverse" enough? Oh, let me not remind us all of the California messes about Asians and Asian-Americans are "not really minorities."
  4. If SATs are going to be used as a qualification for school admissions, then frankly I think schools should measure every potential student by the same yardstick, not have different yardsticks for different groups.

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