Top of Mind: Standardized Tests

Author’s Note: This excerpt is from my weekly “Top of Mind” email, sent to subscribers every Thursday. For more content like this and to receive the full newsletter each week, sign up on Minding the Campus’s homepage. Simply go to the right side of the page, look for “SIGN UP FOR OUR WEEKLY NEWSLETTER, ‘TOP OF MIND,'” and enter your name and email.

In a bid to maintain race-based admission practices following the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College verdict, which marked the termination of affirmative action in college admissions, institutions of higher education devised loopholes to preserve race-based admissions. One of the primary measures taken by many universities was eliminating standardized testing requirements.

Leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to eliminate testing requirements, the left believed that making the ACT and SAT optional would lower barriers for non-white students to enter college. One education association, for example, claimed that standardized testing had racist beginnings, and Ivy Leauge institutions, in particular, believed that dropping the requirements would benefit students with “disadvantaged backgrounds”—i.e. black, latino, native, etc. 

But, as it turns out, the SAT and ACT weren’t racist afterall

In fact, tetsing requiremnets are coming back, even at schools most notable for having ditched testing requirements to expand racial diveristy—i.e. the Ivy Leagues and other elite Northeastern schools. This week’s higher education news, for example, was ablaze with the following headlines: “In A Surprise Move, Harvard Reinstates Standardized Testing Requirements,” “Harvard reinstates standardized testing requirement, following Yale, MIT,” and “In Sudden Reversal, Harvard To Require Standardized Testing for Next Admissions Cycle.”

“Our bottom line is simple: we believe a standardized testing requirement will improve—not detract from—our ability to bring the most promising and diverse students to our campus,” Dartmouth now says about its standardized testing policy. 

But will the elite Northeastern schools like Harvard start a trend?  That’s what Richard P. Phelps asks in this week’s top article

It’s hard to tell, he says. 

Though the elite Northeastern universities now believe that ACT and SAT scores outshine other factors as a predictor of college success and completion, others are not jumping into the bandwagon. 

University of California’s (UC) Board of Regents, for example, is embracing a “test-blind” approach that bars any consideration of test scores—I am not surprised; California’s education elites are obsessed with lowering all boats to support radical equity and a test-blind option, which to them, is a perfect way to admit unqualified and allegedly-oppressed students onto their campuses. 

“Should a trend follow utility,” Phelps writes, “we might expect to see more highly selective colleges re-requiring admission tests. Arguably, they receive the most benefit—admission tests are most informative in the range of the student distribution where they search, and they are relatively the most needy of help in sifting through relatively large numbers of applications.”

While Phelps refrains from offering a conclusive forecast on the future of testing requirements, two key points come to my mind: First, since the elite schools are bringing back test requirements, there’s a hopeful prospect that other universities will embrace merit-based admission criteria such as requiring SAT or ACT scores. But, second, given higher education’s prevalent leftist tendencies, it’s probable that numerous institutions will lean towards California’s test-blind policy as a means to factor in students’ race during the admissions process.

With cynicism, onto this week’s articles. 

Photo by 9dreamstudio — Adobe Stock — Asset ID#: 299019799


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