Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why Colleges Shouldn't Eliminate Admissions Tests

The high school I attended did not weight honors or Advanced Placement classes in its calculation of students' grade point averages. Because of this, kids who took less-challenging classes for easy A's wound up with higher GPA's than those who enrolled in harder classes & received B's. Several very bright & hardworking classmates of mine missed the cutoff for our school's chapter of the National Honor Society as a result of this policy while lazier kids got in. While it did not hurt me directly since I did well in honors & AP classes, I always felt it to be both unfair and anti-intellectual. Students should be rewarded for challenging themselves with rigorous coursework, not penalized.

There is an interesting article in today's Washington Post entitled "Grading Disparities Peeve Parents." It discusses research detailing just how wide grading disparities are. Robert Hartranft, a retired nuclear engineer from Simsbury, CT, analyzed the College Board's data to find that just 29% of SAT-takers from CT reported having an A- or better average, compared with 37% in VA, 40% in CA, 42% in FL, and 49% in TX. Overall, schools in New England were the toughest graders while those in the Sunbelt were the most generous.

When Hartranft looked at the average math + verbal SAT scores of those students reporting an A- GPA, he found that those in TX averaged 1039, those in VA averaged 1095, and those in CT an 1146.

Using the 2007 ACT data, 35% of CT's college-bound seniors demonstrated college-level readiness in all 4 subjects tested compared with 23% in VA and only 19% in TX. Unsurprisingly, 10% of students at CT public 4-yr colleges needed remedial coursework compared to 21% in VA and 24% in TX.

As a whole, this data suggests that grade inflation is rampant in this country and it's giving students a false impression of their readiness for higher education.

There's been a big push in recent years by educrats to eliminate college admissions tests such as the SAT and ACT. The complaint is that certain racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups average significantly lower scores than other groups. While this is true, the test itself isn't the real problem- it's merely the result of the fact that too many poor and minority students are stuck in lousy schools.

Research has shown that private school students show a significantly smaller racial & ethnic gap, one which is virtually eliminated for students from families with a high religious commitment. Additionally, there is no significant racial or ethnic differences in standardized test scores among home educated students. Providing a high-quality education to all students, regardless of their color is the solution to the "achievement gap".

No comments: