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In Defense of Test Optional/Blind


If the SAT is eliminated, critics foresee the end of the world. Larry Su, an English professor at the City College of Chicago, recently wrote in Inside Higher Ed predicting that this change will make American students unprepared for college, will prevent minority students from completing their studies, and will convey the value of misinformation about American learning institutions and destroying America’s basic beliefs of hard work and personal responsibility, further jeopardizing America's national and international interests.


Although this long list of details is common in academia, it lacks factual basis. For The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan made a different argument: The UC decision will hurt minority students. The SAT is a pass for many smart kids who, for whatever reason, did not perform well in high school. (By the way, this has been exceptionally true in my own experience with my own students! I’ve met low-GPA students with high SAT scores who still were accepted to great schools!) In 2018, approximately 22,000 UC students took standardized tests, with about half of these students from low-income families, and more than a quarter are black, Latino or Native American.


However, Yale University economist Zachary Bremer, who spent years analyzing data, contends that Flanagan seriously misunderstood the way UC admissions works. According to Bremer, fewer than 100 students entered the University of California because of their SAT scores alone, and the best available evidence shows that the impact of canceling the SAT on the admission of disadvantaged students is negligible (which might be a good thing).


UC graduation rates may drop slightly due to the college's decision. However, due to low test scores, students who would not otherwise advance will benefit greatly. As Bremer's research shows, they are far more likely to graduate than students with similar records enrolled in one of the least selective campuses in California. After six to eight years, the graduate’s income increased by $15,000.


11 national organizations recently asked the U.S. News and World Report to stop using average SAT and ACT scores in their college rankings. NACAC recent claimed that using average freshman scores to rank an institution has never made sense, but is even more absurd during a deadly pandemic.

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