Home > Uncategorized > The Content of One’s Character Cannot be Measured by a Standardized Test or a Mathematical Algorithm

The Content of One’s Character Cannot be Measured by a Standardized Test or a Mathematical Algorithm

June 28, 2017

NPR re-posted an article on the need for reform in admissions to “elite public schools” written for The Conversation by Faculty Director for Professional Education, BU School of Education, Boston University. The article defines “elite public schools” as those that use test scores as the predominant metric for admission, referencing schools like “New York’s StuyvesantBoston Latin or Walter Payton(in Chicago)”. Mr. Murray decries these admissions standards because they inevitably result in segregation by race due to the high correlation between race and test results. Instead of using test scores and other easily quantifiable data as the primary basis for entrance into these competitive schools, Mr. Murray suggests that “elite” public schools follow the example set by several elite colleges who are part of a Making Caring Common, described as “a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, these institutions are piloting new admissions policies that focus less on numbers and more on “ethical engagement.”” Mr. Murray elaborates:

In a report released in January 2016, Making Caring Common argued for elite colleges and universities to include opportunities for candidates to submit authentic demonstrations of empathy, service to others and commitment to the common good as part of their application. They contend that these important values are worth promoting to students and families. In fact, research suggests that strength of character and “grit” are key determinants of future academic and career success.

Importantly, these new metrics could weigh social and emotional attributes that students across all backgrounds could exemplify in some way.

To date, over 175 colleges and universities have signed on to this concept, seeking to diversify their classes and to offer an opportunity to attend college to a wider pool of students. Mr. Murray suggests that elite exam schools could adopt a similar method for admissions:

A school might give special consideration, for example, to candidates who worked to support their families at an early age, served as caregivers to younger siblings, organized efforts to support a needy classmate or led a food drive to help a local shelter.

Exam schools across the country could team with Making Caring Common and its growing list of higher education partners to determine how best to validly and reliably collect, evaluate and weight these types of student experiences.

Unsurprisingly, one commenter to the NPR article found this whole idea distasteful. Effectively speaking on behalf of many who value “merit-based” admissions, commenter “brian m” wrote:

Why would you want to place kids in the Advanced Placement courses that they do not test ready for and will probably fail to pass without a hand me grade. UGH. Why are we rerunning and rerunning race based numbers and using race as the determining factor! Martin Luther king said it wonderfully . Martin Luther King, Jr. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Why do we digress to 1963. The liberal mindset is to make the races equal by giving certain races things they dont earn. Take race out of theses decisions! What do you tell the kids that get passed over for placement into these schools and kept high grades that are the wrong race?

My rebuttal to this comment was:

“What do you tell the kids that get passed over for placement into these schools and kept high grades that are the wrong race?”
You tell them that the qualities needed to succeed in school and life depend on more than getting high test scores or good grades… You tell them that the content of one’s character cannot be measured by a neat and clean mathematical algorithm…

And finally, you tell them that they should be grateful they will not be profiled by police whenever they drive a nice car or shop in a good department store…

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  1. Byron Knutsen
    June 28, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    Yes, there is definitely more to a person than the numbers she/he can produce on a test.

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