Sunday, October 22, 2006

Some Universities Don't Care about the SAT?

That's what the major Sacramento newspaper reports:

At a college fair this month at the Courtyard Marriott in Sacramento, an uneasy chuckle drifted through the hotel conference room when the issue of SAT scores came up -- or rather, when it didn't come up.


More than 200 students and parents had crowded into seats and lined the walls to hear admissions representatives from Northwestern and Emory universities and two top public schools -- the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina, which are those states' equivalent of University of California, Berkeley. Out-of-state students face intense competition to get in.


When a parent asked the school officials to cite the top admissions factors, the admissions reps generally agreed: Good grades and a compelling essay were key.


The University of Virginia representative teased the audience that it was odd how none of the admissions directors mentioned the dreaded admissions tests.


"It's the least important part," said Lee Morgan of the University of Virginia. "That's why we forget about it."

11 comments:

Robert said...

I'd definitely second what the paper says. We've found close to zero correlation with SAT scores and later success in college. I think students have gotten so good at preparing *just* for the SAT, without having the actual requisite knowledge underneath, that the score itself is meaningless many times. The SAT is a nice sort of fallback in case the actual work a student has done is inconclusive. But definitely the grades and (for us) substantive activities and life experiences are a lot more important (because they correlate a lot better with success in college).

Superdestroyer said...

Robert,

I am calling BS. I never met a physicist, chemist, or an engineer who had great HS grades but bad SAT/ACT scores. People who had great grades but bad test scores succeed in college the same way they succeeded in high school: by ducking hard classes(majors) and finding the path of least resistence. It is the combination of test scores and grades that should matter in picking majors and courses of study.

Putting emphasis on substantive activities and life experiences means that your university should just put up a sing saying that you do not want Asian students but do want lots of rich white prep students.

Look at the graduates of Duke University. I assume they all have great academic resumes. Yet the top majors are economics, government, and psychology. What is the point of they great academic resume in college just to sit through classes in the "Easy" majors?

allen said...

Grades mean something? Come on, grade inflation has been blabbed about for the last decade or two. It didn't just go away. What has gone away in a couple of states and is under pressure everywhere is affirmative action.

One of the more dreadful responses to the ending of affirmative action is the automatic acceptance of the top X percent of high school graduates. You get kids with 4.0 GPAs coming to fairly good schools but ending up with wildly differing results. Turns out a 4.0 from one high school or school district won't get you out of ninth grade in another district.

Another one of the more callous and reprehensible responses to the pressure on affirmative action is the denigration of college admissions tests in favor of oh so subjective substantive activities and life experiences. Pretty tough to find the racist agenda among the thicket of assumptions that go into deciding which life experience is worth ten points and which is worth fifty or so goes the feverish hope.

In the words of that intellectual giant, Bob Dylan, the times they are a changin' and some time in the not-too-distant future we'll see a replay of the Larry Summers debacle but with a very different outcome. Rather then the president of the university being chased out by feminists suffering from the vapors at the passing mention that there may be differences between men and women we'll see a couple of the more useless departments, women's studies comes to mind but there are others, marched out into the quad to be summarily executed. If that's followed by the dismissal of a couple of profs who may be able to perceive the socially-constructed nature of just about everything but can't read the writing on the wall then I predict most of the rest of their society-ennobling peers will rediscover the joys of the quiet academic life.

Robert said...

Superdestroyer - You can BS all you want, but I'm telling you, SAT scores do not correlate with college success any better than how a student has performed in high school (grades) and what they've done with their lives outside the classroom (substantive life experiences, which serve as a pretty good addition to grades for older adult students). Students can fudge their way through the SAT just as much as they can their grades. Just because you never met an engineer, etc. with good grades but bad SAT's proves nothing.

And I think your comment about Asian and white students is the very BS you yourself are trying to call.

rightwingprof said...

We had a statistically signifacant correlation between SAT (math) scores and our class scores, and no correlation between high school GPA (math) and our class scores. (Don't ask for the exact R; we did that study some five years ago and I don't have access to it now).

However flawed, the SAT is more reliable than grades from a system that hands out grades like candy to make students feel good.

Superdestroyer said...

Robert,

Do you really believe that if you took two students with similar GPAs, one with a 1000 on the SAT and one with a 1350 SAT, that they would both have a similar chance of completing a degree in physics? Would you really want to admit an applicant with a 950 on their SAT to a chemical engineering program instead of kid with 1400 because the kid with the 950 SAT started a prom dress for poor people program or because she was the editor of the school newspaper?

If you have data that students with 1400 on the SAT complete chemical engineering program at the same rate as students with 1000 SAT scores, then please cite the study. I doubt that such a study were ever be permitted.

My guess is that kids with low SAT scores retreat to the women's studies program or the elementary education programs. That way, the low scorers can still graduate but did not receive an equivalent education.

Look at the 10 percent in Texas program. Yes, it cause the admission for many more minorities to UT-Austin and Texas A&M. Yet, it did not increase the number of minorities in the schools of engineering.

EllenK said...

Texas is living through the Top Ten Percent clause at University of Texas. And you are so right. Kids from highly competitive schools who were in the fifteenth percentile of students had higher GPA's and SAT scores that some from less successful schools. Even one district that was disbanded because of testing irregularities and below level scores got to send their top ten percenters to this highly competitive school, while kids who took a slew of AP classes and aced the tests were wait listed. Does this make sense when people keep saying we need bright young people to take over in the next decade?

Loni said...

If the SATs truly reflected mental capacity and its translation into success in college, there wouldn't be a multi-million dollar industry surrounding it. Kids spend hundreds on books and classes, preparing themselves for this test, this useless exercise, that demonstrates one's ability to answer questions that he/she will most likely never see on a college exam.

As far as the other components of the application go, learning to make oneself look good on paper is an important life skill. However, if you do fudge your extra curriculars: joining sports you hate, being president of a non-existant club, etc. it will come back to bite you. I don't mean when you flunk college, but rather in the sense that you are wasting your education and becoming a very boring person.

allen, i think you and i disagree on the purpose of college. it's not about success or about attaining a degree in something "useful." it's about continuing your education both inside and outside of the classroom. Thus the importance of a diverse student body, both ethinically and socially. Why have a college filled with SAT geniuses that are all majoring in engineering. A women's studies major now and again adds some color to a world that is becoming far too practical. (and women's studies is by no means an easy major).

The admissions process isn't easy, and it will never be %100 fair. But relying on the SAT's will only further skew the inequalities. It's one test, one morning in a student's life. To put that against four years of high school is a ridiculous way to measure a student's ability to succeed in college.

rightwingprof said...

"If the SATs truly reflected mental capacity and its translation into success in college, there wouldn't be a multi-million dollar industry surrounding it. Kids spend hundreds on books and classes, preparing themselves for this test, this useless exercise, that demonstrates one's ability to answer questions that he/she will most likely never see on a college exam."

You are completely clueless, aren't you. What's insane is to give any grade any weight at all, given that students who can't pass 8th-grade math proficiency on a senior graduation exam were passed through four years of math in school.

Loni said...

I can't be "completely clueless;" I scored above 2000 on the SAT. I guess that qualifies me as relatively intelligent. slap a label on me.

Your forgetting that colleges consider the competetiveness of the high school when looking at grades. A kid who passes four years of math (in most cases a D is passing) and yet can't do 8th-grade-level material isn't coming from the best school.

Along with what seems to be the growing trend, my college doesn't put much weight on the SAT. Grades are important, but not as much as strength of character (gasp!). And guess what, the students here do just fine, even if some of us are a little "clueless".

rightwingprof said...

"I can't be "completely clueless;" I scored above 2000 on the SAT. I guess that qualifies me as relatively intelligent. slap a label on me."

Yeah, and I have a PhD. So? I know lots of highly intelligent idiots.

"Your forgetting that colleges consider the competetiveness of the high school when looking at grades."

There is no competitiveness when everybody gets an A -- and students feel the deserve an A.

If all grades were calculated solely on test scores, as opposed to meaningless nonsense such as "participation," grades might mean something. Currently, they cannot be trusted to mean anything.