The Parody of Parity in Admissions

A piece up on Forbes sums up the findings of a Stanford Graduate School of Education study.

You may have read recently that the SAT and ACT are not the only factors in the elite college admissions process that favor the affluent. Yes, the quality of an applicant’s high school is a significant factor in elite college admissions. So too are letters of recommendation, college essays, activities, grades, courses, and more. And, yes, students from affluent backgrounds are more likely to go to great high schools, take rigorous coursework, get involved extracurricularly, and more. So when we read the study out of the Stanford Graduate School of Education that found college essay content is related to household income and that one can reasonably predict a student’s SAT or ACT score from their writing, let’s just say our jaws didn’t exactly drop to the floor.

As Susan Adams writes in a piece for Forbes entitled “What A New Study On College Essays And Family Income Really Means,” “People concerned about the fairness of college admissions are seizing on a new study from Stanford’s Center for Education and Policy Analysis to argue that colleges should keep using standardized tests to decide who gets in. During the pandemic, some 60% of U.S. colleges made submission of test scores optional. ‘Hey let’s dump the SAT bc the rest of the admissions process is so equitable,’ tweeted Susan Dynarski, a professor of education and public policy at the University of Michigan. She followed the tweet with an eye-roll emoji.The 26-page study, ‘Essay Content is Strongly Related to Household Income and SAT Scores,’ appears to support the idea that in addition to scoring consistently above their low-income counterparts on the SAT, students from high-income households submit essays that are more likely to secure them a spot at a selective college. Reported family income is an even better predictor of essay quality than of test scores, according to the study.”

One private college counselor joked that she was clutching her pearls as she read the findings of the study. That gave us a good giggle. We too found ourselves clutching our pearls. Students who go to top high schools are more likely to use the Oxford comma? Students who go to schools with top teachers are more likely to write better? Doesn’t it just seem preposterous? And here we thought the notion of eliminating the consideration of SAT and ACT scores would create a fair and balanced college admissions system. And here we thought their elimination would create instantaneous parity. Oh please. This Stanford Graduate School of Education study is about as meaningful as the “Turning the Tide” report issued by the Harvard Graduate School of Education from back in 2016. What ever happened with that tide? Did it turn? Or might Harvard and Stanford academics not be the best deciders on how to create equity in college admissions? Just saying.

 
 

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