Did you take the SATs to try to get into college? Your kids may not have to.
More than 1,300 schools have become “test optional,” meaning students need not submit SAT scores. Some, like the entire University of California system, now won’t even look at scores.
There are seemingly legitimate reasons to oppose the tests. Richer kids often get tutoring that gives them an advantage.
Critics claim the tests are culturally biased and say that’s why Blacks and Latinos don’t score as well. But that doesn’t explain why Asians do so well. In fact, Asians get the best SAT scores.
I assume it’s more about culture and parenting. Kids raised in front of the TV do poorly. Those encouraged to read do better. Kids who spend time talking to adults do better.
Bob Schaeffer, executive director at FairTest, an advocacy group that helped persuade colleges to dump tests, says testing companies just want to make money.
“These are businesses selling products,” Schaeffer says in my new video. “The College Board is a billion-dollar a year business.”
I ask him what’s wrong with the tests themselves. He replies, “The SAT and ACT are inferior predictors of college performance.”
It is true that high school grades predict 33% of college grades, while tests predict 32%. But that is just barely “inferior.” Combining grades and SATs predicts 42% of college grades, which makes the tests useful.
Also, tests can help the smart student who, for whatever reason, doesn’t do well in high school.
“It’s the diamond in the rough argument,” Schaeffer responds. “There are actually very few examples of that being true.”
I believed him until I looked at College Board data. It shows that students with C grades in high school, but great SAT scores, do better in college than A+ students with low SAT scores.
Without tests, schools often choose students based on parental connections or donations.
Tiwalayo Aina, a Black student at MIT, got good SAT scores. He tweeted, “The SAT is fairer than the alternative: needing my parents to connect me with a … professor.”
I say to FairTest’s Schaeffer, “By eliminating tests, you’re screwing the minority student who is really smart, but goes to a lousy high school, has family problems and got low grades.”
“That student would have shown brilliantly in her high school classes,” is Schaeffer’s reply.
Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley says colleges scrapped tests to make it easier for administrators to control how many people from each racial group attend their college. Without an objective standard, who’s to say an administrator’s admission picks are wrong?
“It really is about making these campuses look right. … It’s not about learning,” says Riley.
“If you want more diversity,” he adds, “Open up more of these charter schools (like the ones that are) able to prepare kids for these tests.”
Some charters, the Success Academies, do that well. Sadly, those charters are criticized and limited by politicians because they are not under the control of teachers unions.
Ending limits on charters and allowing school choice, says Riley, would do much more to close the race gap than dropping SATs. “Eliminate the test, you’re just going to delay where it shows up elsewhere in this child’s life. You’re not doing that child any favor.”
What’s wrong with these schools saying we want a more diverse student body?
“There’s this assumption,” says Riley, “We just get these kids in the door and they’ll be fine. No, they won’t! They’re being set up to fail. I see no progress in getting a bunch of Black kids admitted to MIT, and then having them flunk out or struggle. They don’t need to be struggling. They could go be going to another school and doing quite well.”
But woke educators want to eliminate tests.
And these days, want the woke want, the woke get.