Another Blow to SAT and ACT

There’s a piece out in Forbes on a new study that concludes the SAT and ACT advantage the privileged.

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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  • Marjorie Winters says:

    This is an incredibly relevant and interesting story. Objectively judging- by all honest witnesses- Affirmative Action killed standardized testing. How? Because Elite universities wanted- and did- admit under-represented minorities with low test scores. This brought anger from the Asian and White communities with high test score whom complained both in op-eds and lawsuits that they were victims of reverse discrimination. Solution? End testing! Problem solved for elites. Lawsuits no longer have standing. 4.0s are prevalent among all ethnic groups, but high test scores are not. I am not sure how this ends, but I do believe sooner or later this tarnishes the reputation of the Ivies and stellar students with stellar intellect may disperse. Too bad.

  • Audrey Penn says:

    Ivy Coach, I like a lot of what you say- but not this time. I do not think the SAT prep helps THAT much, in fact, many people do worse on their tests after prep. It is a way overrated heap of nonsense. And with all the free help and free testing that minorities get nowadays, I do not think a lack of test prep is the cause of their poor scores. You can bring up all the stats you want, but I was an educator and worked with all students in very a diverse school. Also, if you did not have a vested interest in the essay business I might be more forgiving of your bleeding heart act, but you DO have a vested interest in the demise of tests. Once tests are eliminated from applications what is left? The essay. Case closed.

    • Ivy Coach says:

      Hi Audrey,

      Our SAT and ACT tutoring business is an important arm of our company. We know it’s sometimes hard to imagine that a company would suggest things from atop their soapbox when it counters their business interests. If you’re a regular reader of our college admissions blog, you know we do it quite regularly. We tell it like it is…even if it doesn’t serve us. And as to tutoring not helping privileged students? That’s preposterous. Great tutors can significantly boost SAT and ACT scores. Not all tutors, of course, are created equal.

  • Adam says:

    well if what you say was true, blacks and latinos who DO attend elite schools on scholarship at such schools as Andover and Exeter and are getting the same EXACT SAT coaching over a 4 year period as their peers, should be achieving the same scores. They are definitely not achieving the same scores are their white and asian friends. So, the preposterousness lies in your statement, Coach. It is like saying white people have the same vertical leap as blacks. Clearly coaching makes little or no difference there either. Sorry to report there are racial differences that account for strengths and weaknesses in ALL races. Silly to say otherwise. And categorically false. Everyone has something to contribute in ever aspect of life. Tom Brady will never dunk on Michael Jordan, even at Jordan’s age!

    • Ivy Coach says:

      Hi Adam,

      There’s quite a large hole in your reasoning. Students on scholarship at the likes of Exeter and Andover are highly unlikely to be receiving $500/hour+ private tutoring like their classmates who are not on scholarship. SAT and ACT tutoring is not part of the Exeter and Andover curriculums.

  • Adam says:

    Typical Leftist. Not every white and asian student at prep schools is getting a $500 an hour tutor. Just absurd. And not every minority is without excellent and free assistance from tutors at preps. BUT, no matter what anyone says you will state there was somehow an ‘advantage’ that a white had over every other race, right, hence the different results? Too bad I could not have used the race card to find my way into the NBA. I would loved to have played for them rather than a top LAC. You don’t want equal opportunity, you want equal RESULTS.

    • Ivy Coach says:

      No one argued that every white and Asian American student at Andover and Exeter had $500/hour tutoring for the SAT or ACT. However, your argument that we can gauge the effectiveness of SAT/ACT tutoring by seeing how Exeter’s and Andover’s student bodies perform on the exam defies logic. After all, many Exeter and Andover students get SAT and ACT tutoring outside of school. There is no SAT and ACT class as part of the Exeter or Andover curriculums. And not all tutors are created equal. As an example, there’s Kaplan SAT tutoring and there’s Ivy Coach SAT tutoring. There’s the Caltech men’s basketball team. And then there’s the Los Angeles Lakers. Lefty or righty, let’s offer up arguments that at least make sense.

  • Lin wei says:

    I am Chinese and have Chinese American child and California is now halting AP Math until 11 grade. Why? This is not rich schools. They are regular normal income. No tutors or SAT coach like you say. Now my son can not take AP math? Comments here are correct. The Asians doing much better than everyone else on the tests so colleges trying hard to hurt asians and help latino and black the most. I am not rich man. No test help for my son and dauter. They have black friends and latino friends. They do not do to good on the math tests. That is ok. But do not hurt my kid to help your kid. You, on this website are trying to promote communism. I leave China becauze that. Now you trying to bring it here? I recognize it, even if you do not. You should check your privilege.

    • Ivy Coach says:

      The State of California cannot — and did not — order that students not take AP Calculus prior to 11th grade.

  • Ian serotkin says:

    It is all about ‘racial’ equity and you know it. States are doing anything they want to, even classifying boys as girls in middle school. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is moving to eliminate ALL accelerated math options prior to 11th grade, effectively keeping higher-achieving students from advancing as they usually would in the school system. Why? Oh because students from the same school but different races are from vastly different economic status? Hardly. Studies have shown that those from different ethnic backgrounds but with same exact socioeconomic status, Asians far outperform black and hispanic students and slightly outperform whites. This is fact. This is why States are moving to eliminate AP classes. And you know this. Stop lying about this ‘advantage’ crap. It exists in a microcosm of our culture, but it is not only white privilege. It is now Asian privilege and Jewish Privilege. As a Jew, I see it! We don’t live in the gilded age anymore. Most prep schools are now made up of Asians, Jews (I attended a prep school not long ago) and some Black and Hispanic students. Long gone are the Animal House types, than Goodness. Studies disprove you. Sorry, but you are mistaken big time.

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