Home > Uncategorized > Sorry Ms. Currid-Halkett, this IS the Time to Abandon the Use of Standardized Tests for College Admissions

Sorry Ms. Currid-Halkett, this IS the Time to Abandon the Use of Standardized Tests for College Admissions

May 2, 2020

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett’s op ed essay in yesterday’s NYTimes questioning why policy makers are talking about permanently abandoning the SAT and ACT defends the tests as necessary and helpful to students who come from “struggling public schools”. In her essay she analogizes the tests to democracy, which is aphoristically referred to as “the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried.” I don’t see the analogy working here… because there is a form of admissions that hasn’t been tried and now could be tried. Instead of using the SAT’s, I would advocate an emphasis on GPAs and interviews by admissions counselors.

In her piece, Ms. Currid-Halkett states her case for downplaying GPAs with this:

Half of high school students today graduate with an A-average, so how meaningful is an A? Consider that good grades from a struggling public school in Mississippi could be discounted by admissions officers and scholarship committees compared with good grades coming from an elite private or public magnet school that offers AP courses and an honors curriculum.

Her critique of GPAs is valid… indeed in previous (and future posts I am sure) I have criticized the emphasis on grades and called for mastery grading— which is presumably what an “A” signifies. But I believe an emphasis on GPAs would benefit high schools tremendously… especially those from “a struggling public school in Mississippi” and other “struggling” public high schools. When high SAT scores achieved thanks to costly test-prep programs are valued more highly than high GPAs earned by working class kids the kids and guidance counselors in those “struggling public high schools” get the message: getting straight A’s won’t get you anywhere so why bother.

If the selective colleges reserved 20% of their slots for kids from “struggling” public high schools and used teams of admission counselors to interview students to identify those who would thrive on their campus it would send a much different message. How would those interviews take place? Now that colleges expect students to pay full costs for online courses how could they argue that conducting admissions interviews online would be deficient? If selective colleges really wanted to send an encouraging message to “struggling public schools” they might consider sending admissions teams to their campuses to conduct interviews. An emphasis on GPAs combined with the judgment of admissions staff and a bona fide commitment to opening admissions could change the thinking of those high achieving students in “struggling” schools who are currently marginalized.

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