The SAT and ACT aren’t exactly having the greatest year. For years an important guest at the annual party that is elite college admissions, the tests barely made the invite list this past year. And they stood outside at the door for a long while, flashing their collective smiles in the hope of attracting the attention of the bouncer. He barely paid them any mind, though ultimately did let them in under the guise of “test-optional” policies. But while the SAT and ACT are still likely to get in this year with “test-optional” policies potentially remaining in place at many of our nation’s elite universities, they may soon find themselves standing out in the cold with no party to attend. A recently published study by Marc Kantrowitz zeroes in on the disparities of the SAT and ACT — and how they discriminate against low-income, minority, and female students.
As Kantrowitz writes of his study in a piece entitled “How Admissions Tests Discriminate Against Low-Income And Minority Student Admissions At Selective Colleges,” “The cause is not intentional discrimination, but rather a statistical artifact of the way in which the SAT and ACT tests are scored. The SAT and ACT admission test scores follow a normal distribution, also known as a Bell Curve. When the location of the Bell Curve is shifted due to changes in the average test scores, small differences in test scores at the mean can be magnified at the highest and lowest test scores. This leads to big differences in the percentage of students with high test scores when test-takers are aggregated by income, race and gender. The paper’s key findings include: Students with family income of $100,000 or more are more than twice as likely as students with family income under $50,000 to have combined SAT test scores of 1400 to 1600. White students are three times more likely than Black or African-American students and twice as likely as Hispanic or Latino students to have combined SAT test scores of 1400 to 1600. Male students are 42% more likely to have combined SAT test scores in the 1400 to 1600 range than female students, possibly due to differences in performance on math exams.”
We know. It’s all so shocking. Who ever would have guessed that privileged students whose parents can afford fancy SAT and ACT tutoring, which of course Ivy Coach offers to our clients, would enjoy an advantage on these standardized tests? Come on now. While we appreciate the fact that Mr. Kantrowitz took the time to put this study together and statistical analyses can often be worthwhile, we can’t help but just say, well, duh. But, hey, in case the SAT and ACT aren’t already down for the count, the study is indeed yet another gut punch to the two companies behind the tests.
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