In November 2021, the Board of Regents of the University of California voted to permanently abolish using SAT and ACT scores as factors in determining admission to the university. The stated reasons are: (1) standardized tests are biased against students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds (essentially meaning low-income households where the parents do not have college degrees) and (2) the SAT does not substantially improve the university’s ability to predict college grades beyond just using the student’s high school grade point average.So why are the scores being eliminated? It appears to be part of a plan to dumb down the colleges.
These stated reasons are factually wrong. Furthermore, the Board of Regents displayed a complete misunderstanding of how students were actually admitted before the ban on using the SAT took place.
With regard to the relative importance of the SAT vis-à-vis grades, here are the data published in 2020 by the University of California Office of Institutional Research. In 2015 (the last year the study covers), grades alone explain 13 percent of the variance in first-year GPA, SAT scores alone explain 22 percent of the variance in first-year GPA and when added together, grades and SAT explain 26 percent of the variability in first-year GPA. So, adding SAT scores to grades doubles the predictability of college performance. This is a major improvement.
Next, I turn to the issue of bias. We first need to know what it means for the SAT to be biased against students who are low income and/or have attended high schools that are predominantly filled with low-income students. The SAT is biased against socioeconomically disadvantaged students if the SAT underpredicts their performance at the university. The standard measure of performance is first-year GPA. In over 50 years of testing and in hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific articles, the results are clear—the SAT is biased in favor of socioeconomically disadvantaged students and biased against socioeconomically advantaged students. In particular, if two students have identical SAT scores and grades or just SAT scores alone, the socioeconomically disadvantaged student will have lower university grades than the socioeconomically advantaged student will have. Furthermore, the student from a lower socioeconomic background will have a lower college grade than predicted by SAT scores and grades, while a student from a socioeconomically advantaged background will have higher college grades than predicted. ...
Donald Wittman is distinguished professor of economics, emeritus, at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Wednesday, March 09, 2022
Test Scores are Useful to Colleges
Donald Wittman writes: