Dropping SAT from college admissions hurts minorities in the name of wokeness

This article originally appeared in Washington Examiner, dated May 22nd, 2020.


We should all be concerned about the University of California regents’ decision to eliminate the SAT and the ACT from college admissions by 2025. This change will harm the very same minority students who administrators supposedly seek to protect. 

The decision flouts the recommendations of UC’s own faculty leadership and the task force convened to study the issue. It reflects not rational policymaking but a growing movement on the Left to do away with standardized testing in college admissions due to a perceived racial bias against black and Hispanic applicants.

These sentiments are simply false. 

There is no evidence that the SAT is “biased” against black and Hispanic applicants. What is used to justify these claims are the sizable differences in average scores across demographic groups. But discrepancies alone do not prove discrimination.

The true purpose of the SAT is to predict college success, and it does that very neutrally along racial lines. SAT correlations with college GPA are nearly identical between black students (0.49), Hispanics (0.55), Asians (0.54), and white students (0.56), all of which are considered “high.” In fact, there is potential evidence that the SAT tracks college GPA in black students better than it does for white students. This is likely why there hasn’t been much noise from predominantly black colleges to eliminate the tests.

SAT and ACT scores also hedge against a very real fraud sweeping the country and devastating low-income black and Hispanic communities: grade inflation.

In places such as New York City, in predominantly low-income black and Hispanic neighborhoods with decrepit public schools, such inflation runs rampant, and the number of students in NYC who pass math classes but fail basic math performance tests is unconscionably high. Over 140 high schools in New York City have entire grades with over 90% math exam failure rates, but grade inflation and unwritten “no-fail” policies have allowed them to pass students anyway. 

In fact, between 80% and 94% of students in NYC public middle schools passed their math classes, but just 2% to 15% passed their math exams. There is little doubt that as students in NYC are being passed from grade to grade, the acquisition of true math skills that would help them succeed in college or in working life is criminally perfunctory. And that lack of preparation will show up in college life. 

On the other hand, many wealthy white parents exploit the predominance of extracurricular activities in college admissions to give their kids an unmerited advantage in the admissions process. In one extreme example, famous Hollywood actors were able to get their children into elite schools by bribing their swim team coaches. Even without explicit bribery, wealth is far more likely to buy dance lessons or lacrosse uniforms that provide great boosts to extracurricular profiles than it is to buy actual cognitive ability as measured by a test. 

To gain the latter, you have to work hard and prepare, or at least show enough discipline to grind out study hours on practice exams.

Does anyone really think making an admissions system less accountable, less reliant on objective metrics, and more dependent on the individual sentiments of college admissions officers who hold biases just like any of us will somehow result in a less corrupt system? 

More likely, it will just benefit the rich and white even more. 

The moral blinders on the elite UC system are so strong, however, that it chooses to ignore this data, as well as the recommendations from the very people it hired to make a decision on this matter, and to vote 23-0 to eliminate the tests. Why?

Truthfully, this is all part of a left-wing push to reduce and eventually eliminate the notion of individual merit altogether. Believing judging people on the basis of merit to be odious, the Left would prefer to structure its institutions on the basis of race, ethnicity, and its own political predispositions. Don’t believe me?

A bill to revoke neutrality laws and allow race and sex preferences in public college enrollment and government employment is also making its way through the California legislature. Democrats’ piety about “diversity” should not be interpreted as sincere outreach to black people and Hispanics. It is just another power grab to restructure society how they see fit.

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