Archive for December, 2019

Another argument against dropping SATs in college admission

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

Sunday’s LA Times stated that using grades in admissions without SAT test scores could “exacerbate inequities because grade inflation is worse at affluent schools.” Imagine now the pressure on high school teachers to inflate grades. Every teacher has had students pleading to raise a B+ to an A-. As I used to tell my students on the first day of class, “everyone has an A. It’s your responsibility to keep it.”

Dropping the SATs will regrettably lead to more cheating at high schools — not only plagiarizing but cheating on quizzes. After a student in freshman composition submitted an in-class essay quiz that did not address the prompt at all, I questioned him. It was clear he had guessed what the topic would be and had filled in the blue book at home.

I did not want to repeat this experience. From that day forward, I had all students hand in a blue book the week before the quiz. I took these home, thumbed through them making sure there were no crib notes and then signed the cover of each. I distributed these the day of the quiz and stated I would not accept any blue book that did not have my signature on the cover.

The UC system needs to consider the pressure that will be placed on high school teachers both in terms of inflating students’ grades but also students increasingly plagiarizing and cheating on in-class quizzes. Yes, these has been cheating on the SAT and those responsible should be punished. The SAT and ACT administered correctly serve to evaluate students.

Groups sue UC over SAT & ACT

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

The WSJ reports that a group of students filed a lawsuit against the University of California. The suit alleges that by requiring SAT or ACT admission tests, the UC system discriminates against low-income students and racial minorities.

In another suit, Asian students whose SAT and ACT scores are stellar are suing Harvard. They allege Harvard discriminates against them by capping the number of Asian students whose SAT and ACT scores more than qualify them for admission by ranking each student on “personality.” Asian students, are judged to be quieter and thus somehow deficient in “personality.” Asian students, too, often come from low-income families. Many are immigrants who have overcome innumerable hardships. Will they win their suit?

The SAT and ACT admission tests serve as an equalizer. (Yes, I deplore those wealthy celebrity parents who have gamed the system.) Students who underperformed in high school often due to circumstances beyond their control but excelled on the SAT or ACT should be given consideration. Also what of the student who got top grades but whose SAT or ACT scores are mediocre? Perhaps the “A” at this school is the equivalent of a “B” at another?

Standardized tests are indispensable to fairly evaluate students seeking admission to our universities. Otherwise, we cease to be a meritocracy.

Should college SATs be eliminated?

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

I recently read the UC regents were considering eliminating SATs in student admissions. They argue that these unfairly benefit the more affluent students whose families can afford to pay for pricey SAT prep and tutoring. However, all students have access to online prep, notably the Khan Academy. These online services help even the playing field.

As a former English instructor at UC Irvine. I encountered freshmen who had great difficulty reading and comprehending an assigned essay. No, these students were not foreign-born. Their home language was English. How could their lack of basic reading and comprehension skills not have been detected in high school? I immediately contacted the students’ counsellors and insisted these students receive specialized tutorials.

SAT scores serve as a report card on high schools. We all know high schools differ. Some teachers are more prone to grade inflation. Is an A in American History at school X comparable to an A at school Y? There is no way to know. If the scores of their seniors are appallingly low, should these schools not be held accountable? If the thermometer says you have a temperature, do you throw out the thermometer or cure the underlying cause of the fever? If the SAT is abandoned, what measure will be used to determine whether students have the basic skills to enter and succeed in their college-level studies?

The SAT is an objective measure of a student’s skills. It should remain a factor in determining admissions to the university.