Getting Rid of the SAT Won't Diversify Higher Ed. Expanding School Choice Will.

Giving kids more educational options would help produce the long-term change activists want.


Did you take the SATs to try to get into college? Your kids may not have to.

More than 1,300 schools have become "test optional," meaning students need not submit SAT scores. Some, like the entire University of California system, now won't even look at scores.

There are seemingly legitimate reasons to oppose the tests. Richer kids often get tutoring that gives them an advantage.

Critics claim the tests are culturally biased and say that's why Blacks and Latinos don't score as well. But that doesn't explain why Asians do so well. In fact, Asians get the best SAT scores.

I assume it's more about culture and parenting. Kids raised in front of the TV do poorly. Those encouraged to read do better. Kids who spend time talking to adults do better.

Bob Schaeffer, executive director at FairTest, an advocacy group that helped persuade colleges to dump tests, says testing companies just want to make money.

"These are businesses selling products," Schaeffer says in my new video. "The College Board is a billion dollar a year business."

I ask him what's wrong with the tests themselves. He replies, "The SAT and ACT are inferior predictors of college performance."

It is true that high school grades predict 33 percent of college grades, while tests predict 32 percent. But that is just barely "inferior." Combining grades and SATs predicts 42 percent of college grades, which makes the tests useful.

Also, tests can help the smart student who, for whatever reason, doesn't do well in high school.

"It's the diamond in the rough argument," Schaeffer responds. "There are actually very few examples of that being true."

I believed him until I looked at College Board data. It shows that students with C grades in high school, but great SAT scores, do better in college than A+ students with low SAT scores.

Without tests, schools often choose students based on parental connections or donations.

Tiwalayo Aina, a black student at MIT, got good SAT scores. He tweeted, "The SAT is fairer than the alternative: needing my parents to connect me with a…professor."

I say to FairTest's Schaeffer, "By eliminating tests, you're screwing the minority student who is really smart, but goes to a lousy high school, has family problems, and got low grades."

"That student would have shown brilliantly in her high school classes," is Schaeffer's reply.

Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley says colleges scrapped tests to make it easier for administrators to control how many people from each racial group attend their college. Without an objective standard, who's to say an administrator's admission picks are wrong?

"It really is about making these campuses look right.…It's not about learning," says Riley.

"If you want more diversity," he adds, "open up more of these charter schools [like the ones that are] able to prepare kids for these tests."

Some charters, the Success Academies, do that well. Sadly, those charters are criticized and limited by politicians because they are not under the control of teachers unions.

Ending limits on charters and allowing school choice, says Riley, would do much more to close the race gap than dropping SATs. "Eliminate the test, you're just going to delay where it shows up elsewhere in this child's life. You're not doing that child any favor."

What's wrong with these schools saying we want a more diverse student body?

"There's this assumption," says Riley, "we just get these kids in the door and they'll be fine. No, they won't! They're being set up to fail. I see no progress in getting a bunch of black kids admitted to MIT, and then having them flunk out or struggle. They don't need to be struggling. They could go be going to another school and doing quite well."

But woke educators want to eliminate tests.

And these days, what the woke want, the woke get.


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  1. The other thing teacher’s unions like about getting rid of the SAT is it keeps homeschoolers out of college. Objective standards are embarrassing for them.

    1. It will backfire. Homeschoolers tend to have more time to pursue the extracurricular activities college bureaucrats like to see.

      So my friend with five kids, all got multiple acceptance letters from nice prestigious universities over the past few years. Sure the family is amazing, and the kids are amazing, but having to fret over going to Notre Dame or Purdue, and which one of their full scholarships is the best, don’t discount the power of homeschooling. Hell, even the “slacker” kid got a full ride to Arizona State.

  2. Act 29. My fellow classmates who got a 30 got a full 4 year scholarship. I got a $100 discount. Once. Took the ACT because I went to a school located in the same city as ACT. The day before I took the test at 7:00 Am I worked a 10 hour shift bussing tables until 4:00 am. Had about 2 hours of sleep. 1982. Good times.

    1. Funny…. I went to see Ozzy Ozborn the night before the SAT… Blizzard of Oz tour. 5th row, left side. Caught a rubber bat that he bit the head off of. Got to bed around 1 am, back up at 6 to get to the test. My left ear was ringing the whole test.

      Good times indeed.

      The other tie-in… I paid for my ozzie tickets waiting tables at an all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant.

      1. No pre-test concert for me. But I didn’t study. I figured being rested and alert was the most important thing. And I aced the SAT. Perfect on one section, and just shy of perfect on the other.

        I so wasted my academic potential. Oh well.

        1. Trust us, we know. We truly know.

          1. Still, an imaginative liar.

  3. In our post-modern world, especially in post-rational academia, words mean whatever we want at at particular moment.

    “Diversity” does not mean what the un-woke might think, especially in terms of ideas and beliefs. In fact, we might understand better if we assume that key words mean exactly the opposite of what they did 20 years ago.

    1. Forced diversity was a disaster throughout the nation in the 70s and the 80s. It turned desirable neighborhoods into ghettos.

  4. Good job with the video!

    It is odd to me that these activists are insisting that we abandon objective measurements and move to entirely subjective measures. It seems as though they want administrators to have the power to do whatever they want with admissions for whatever reason.

    Sure, right now they are claiming it is in the name of diversity. But what do you think these activists will do to these administrators if they decide a different set of criteria is important? I don’t think these college administrators have thought this through very well. As long as they were relying on objective measurements, they had some external place to lay blame. Now it is entirely in their lap. If these people decide that political affiliation is the most important criteria, what will these administrators be able to do? Or should they decide that 10% of students need to identify as trans? Then what?

    By removing objective criteria, administrators have placed themselves directly in the crosshairs. Since they will have no ability to point to some external set of measurements that can be objectively verified, the only possible remedy will be to replace them should they stray from whatever the woke cause celeb of the day is.

    1. When everyone has a “right” to attend college, then college becomes the new high school. Gotta make sure everyone can attend, for free, and graduate.

      Business knows better. Back in our day we could just apply for a job out of college. Nowadays you don’t. Nowadays you apply for an internship. It’s the only way a business can figure out if you’re good or not. Because academic records are bullshit. Why do you think there are so many college “educated” baristas?

      No offense to baristas, but it’s an a bottom rung job while you’re attending college, it’s not supposed to be your career. Sure, people screw up their early life choices, but if why the hell did you waste your parent’s money going to school if all you wanted to be was a barista?

      1. The whole college internship thing is a fucking scam. It’s just a way for companies to get out of having to pay to train employees.

        Right out of high school, I got a job in the human resources department at a local company. In fact, my last day of senior year, I got out early and took the train in town to interview for the job. I started the following week. My first two weeks on the job was OJT, at full pay, then I was expected to fly solo.

        It was a job that didn’t require a degree, and had good promotion potential. The company had a college tuition assistance program for management candidates. By that time, you had some longevity with the company, you probably started by doing some menial work- like human resources clerk- and had worked your way into higher positions so the company was willing to invest in you in order to keep you around.

        Do jobs like that even exist anymore?

        1. Not many. There are now so many college graduates with useless degrees that companies are mostly requiring a Bachelor’s for their bottom rung white collar jobs. Probably easier to get promoted into white collar from a bottom rung service job than to get a white collar job off the bat with just a HS diploma.

  5. “Giving kids more educational options would help produce the long-term change activists want.”

    Wrong, John.
    You accept the premise that “the activists” want a good education for everyone.
    What they want is a government monopoly on thought. And they are getting it.

    1. What they want is for everybody to be treated equally. And in order to treat everybody equally, you have to get rid of standards. Standards are racist and white supremacist and so unfair to people who can’t meet those standards. Why can’t I be the CEO of GM just because I don’t have a business degree, know nothing at all about running a large corporation, don’t understand anything about managing supply chains, have no knowledge at all about manufacturing cars? For that matter, why can’t I be quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks or lead ballerina for the New York City Ballet? It’s not fair!

      1. I want to be lead ballerina for the Seattle Seahawks too!

      2. With those qualifications, you have to be head of HHS.

  6. “I see no progress in getting a bunch of black kids admitted to MIT, and then having them flunk out or struggle. They don’t need to be struggling. They could go be going to another school and doing quite well.”

    “Or they could be playing for the NBA and doing outstandingly well. You know, because of cultural bias.”

  7. The first flaw in this piece is the assumption that anyone advocating to drop the SAT for “equity” reasons, is at all concerned about quality education for poor minorities. They obviously don’t care about that because educational quality in poor, minority communities still sucks, after decades of throwing endless money at the problem.

    What they want is to eliminate any objective measurement of just how terribly they are failing to prepare poor minority students for college level work. There are deeply entrenched problems in poor comunities- both white and minority- and activists just want to treat the symptoms rather than the disease, and pretend they’ve solved the problems. They only care about how many poor minority students get into college. They really don’t care if they actually graduate.

    1. A++

    2. They only care about how many poor minority students get into college. They really don’t care if they actually graduate.

      That’ll be the next step. Once they’ve sufficiently “diversified” colleges by basing admissions on a combination of melanin content and socio-economic status (something tells me rich black kids aren’t the “diversity” they’re looking for – or poor white trash for that matter) and all the “diverse” students start to flunk out – because they weren’t adequately prepared in high school and have shitty parents – they’ll just start lowering the graduation standards so that we can have college graduates who are functionally illiterate.

      But who cares about all that, as long as they spout the right woke platitudes, vote for the right party, and see themselves as perpetual victims.

      1. All of the things that practically guarantee economic mobility- graduate high school, get a job, don’t get a criminal record, don’t have kids out of wedlock, and don’t get married till you’re at least 21- are things that don’t regularly happen in poor communities. They’re also things that require self discipline and very hard work. And we all know, people who put in the kind of work it requires- those people aren’t voting democrat.

        1. I think I’d probably classify it as “moderate work” not “very hard work”. High school isn’t exactly rocket science. Neither is not knocking someone up.

    3. Absolutely. But they will never admit to that,

  8. One interesting thing I find is graduate programs are similarly placing far less importance on the GRE. The most consistent answer I get as to why, is because it ultimately is a poor predictor of how a student performs later when they’re deep into grad school. Individual programs are learning what to recognize in applicants that make successful graduates in their program.

    If the approach is racial equity instead of student success, curricula are going to collapse. That law professor who expressed frustration in poor performing black students comes to mind. There will still be discrepancies after removing standardized testing, because ultimately this is an issue that starts in childhood development.

    1. Which kinds of graduate programs?






      In my experience, the criteria for success is very different between the humanities and the hard sciences. And there are differences yet again within those sub-groups.

      I cannot believe that good GRE scores are not predictive for PhD candidates in mathematics. Or chemistry. Similarly, I have a sneaky suspicion that GRE scores might be non-predictive or even negatively corellated in some of the humanities.

      But that is just based on my personal interactions, not some scientific study.

      1. Specifically my experience is biology-based hard sciences, so I guess I can’t speak for soft sciences or sociology-based. But I’ve had this discussion with biology-centered executive faculty who make admissions decisions, and they all say the same thing.

        I’d wager you’re definitely right about math and physics programs though. And I also agree, these programs are specialized so criteria for success will vary greatly.

        1. It’s woke group-think. Enough people sit around repeating the slogan that test scores are meaningless and shaming anyone who suggests otherwise and eventually everyone starts to believe it. Or at least pretend to believe it.

          Studies have pretty consistently shown that GPA combined with SAT (and presumably GPA combined with GRE) is a stronger predictor of success than GPA alone or SAT/GRE alone. However GPA alone is a stronger predictor than test scores alone.

      2. Engineering. While I took the GRE, my grad school (Drexel) didn’t require it. That was back in 1991.

  9. Getting rid of the SAT will help instill the admissions process that Ivy league schools already have in place: Admit wealthy liberal white people and token minorities.

  10. I say to FairTest’s Schaeffer, “By eliminating tests, you’re screwing the minority student who is really smart, but goes to a lousy high school, has family problems, and got low grades.”

    “That student would have shown brilliantly in her high school classes,” is Schaeffer’s reply. [emphasis added]

    *facepalm* English, motherfucker! Do you speak it?!

    1. Hey, he has a line of argument, and he’s going to repeat it whether it makes any sense or not!

    2. “A Baltimore high school student failed all but three classes over four years and almost graduated near the top half of his class with a 0.13 GPA, according to a local report.” – Fox News

      Apparently you can have low grades and still show brilliantly. Well, *brilliantly* may be a bit of an over statement. Perhaps if the lad had passed five classes.

  11. There’s a problem inherent in standardized tests. Especially the comprehensive and mandatory ones like the SAT. Okay, I aced my SATs, without any tutors. But my school did provide an SAT class to prepare with. (See, even my generation had “teach to the test”).

    But getting rid of the SAT is not the solution. Without that what do colleges look at? High school transcripts? Completely bogus. Grade quality varies wildly from school to school. Which is why there are these standardized tests. They aren’t even government tests, they’re completely private. What colleges need are measurements of academic performance, and these tests provide it.

    That UC is dumping that is sad. UC used to be the cream of the cream. Even backwater branches like UC Merced were prestigious. So how does UC judge academic performance? The sad answer is they aren’t.

    Solution: Fix the SAT. It doesn’t need much fixing, but it could use some tweaking.

    p.s. And the SAT is nothing in comparison to the GRE. So how long until grad school is racist because there’s not enough people passing the GRE? Will a masters degree now because the new high school diploma, in the same way bachelors have?

    p.p.s. I never took the GRE, but I did take the CBEST (teaching exam to get a credential). It was every bit as academic as the SAT. How soon until teaching credentials become racist?

    1. I did very well on the SAT’s too. But I’ve never thought college admissions should have much to do with those tests. Fine they are one thing. So are grades. College application essay. References. Activities. Lots of stuff.

      Colleges should de-emphasize the whole institutional admissions stuff anyway. Admitting students to particular classes is almost certainly needed to ensure that students can get through a specific curriculum in that set time frame. But that sort of test is very different for every single class. The institutional tests are valid for – screening who you eat with in the cafeteria? selecting who can live in the dorms? This is total bullshit intended mostly to ensure that college is full of the right kinds of 18-22 year olds and all the rest can either pump gas or start a tech company. The sort of classifying of people that is certainly the next step in the Prussian/industrial K-12 assembly line. But why are we still accepting that shit?

  12. What’s wrong with these schools saying we want a more diverse student body?

    Everything. Government has neither the moral nor the constitutional authority to take my money to finance other peoples’ educations. If they are going to ignore their oaths and do so they are obliged to offer equal protection to all participants.

    I look forward to a generation of socially promoted, untestable pilots, engineers and surgeons.

    1. Shit, they aren’t even actually providing an education, they’re just taking the money and performing an educational pantomime.

    2. No need to look forward. The military is a perfect example already. They started this nonsense decades ago.

  13. Get the GOV out of Commie-Education!
    This is but another end result of communism in education.

    Today’s terminology correction; It’s not “woke” it’s “wack-job”.

    If MIT want’s to test for entry; they should be able to freely do it without political (useless idiots) “wack-jobs” influence just like some employer’s are still able to do.

    People are NOT cattle that should be herded around. If a person wants to learn a skill or talent then they should pay someone with that skill or talent to teach them.

    Crazy SIMPLE concept distorted through time by the political, Gov-Gun toting, *power-mad* “wack-job” culture.

  14. If it weren’t for the SAT I would have never have been admitted to a University. My grades were poor because I argue with teachers and didn’t take their BS but my SAT was awesome. Problem is I carried that attitude into university so I never finished. Professors don’t like it when you point out their errors.

  15. It’s easy to attack the SAT which rich white kids usually take multiple times and get time extensions on because they have adhd or some other disorder their parents find to get them extra time. Yes, it’s a stupid test, but ignoring testing will not help the bipoc folks FINISH college, which the woke will then blame on institutional racism, and colleges will be forced to dumb down their curricula even more until everyone graduates with a 4.0.

    Personally, I think a better way to assess applicants would be to have them bake a cake, or do an interpretive dance.

  16. Critics claim the tests are culturally biased and say that’s why Blacks and Latinos don’t score as well.

    Studying is white supremacy.

    1. Asian supremacy.

      1. Lacist!

  17. The thing about the SAT is that it gives an objective number that isn’t tied directly to the school. Many, MANY high schools have problems with grade inflation, so a 95% could indicate either competence, excellence, or paid enough to not be allowed to fail.
    On the other hand, class rank is incredibly dependent on the area. A barely-top-10% kid at the smartest magnet school might be valedictorian at a low-performing school, but they would have learned a lot less. The only way to accurately compare this would be with personal knowledge of the reputation and grading system of the high schools in question, something obviously not possible on a large scale.

    The SAT and ACT might not be perfect, but they clearly fulfill a necessary role.

    1. Yes – grade inflation is a huge problem.

      They need to re-normalize grades to set a C+ as an average grade – something like the following distribution:

      10% A
      25% B
      45% C
      15% D
      5% F

    2. I knew one family that moved to a neighborhood with terrible schools, because they knew their kids would graduate in the top 1% of the class there and get to pick the college of their choice in the state.

  18. The other issue nobody seems to discuss is grade inflation. At both the HS and college level grades have increased to the point that elite institutions have so many 4.0 and close to 4.0 applicants that they have to look at other factors.

    There needs to be a serious effort made to renormalize grades such that the grades average around C or C+ and less than 10% of grades given are A’s. Then GPA would become meaningful.

  19. FFS. ‘Tests’ is why we have the expansive federal Department of Education that we have.

    History lesson here. An interstate compact re education was set up in the 1960’s to deal with the legitimate issues that states had to deal with other states about. Testing was part of that but it was entirely ONE outcome of one of the direct issues related to students transferring from out-of-state schools because their parents moved. What grade are they going to enroll in?

    Because it was an interstate compact, the only federal involvement was Congress chartering it. No exec branch. No mandates. No federal bureaucrats in DC managing it. Federal funding is entirely constitutional but unlikely since it is managed by the states in compact not the feds.

    The federal government could have transferred some of its existing stuff to that compact as merely an additional party to the compact. But, for reasons, Carter simply consolidated those into a federal dept. It was REAGAN who expanded it. Federalizing TESTING in order to privatize it. The result was that the interstate compact was gutted and into the resulting vacuum stepped a shiny new federal bureaucracy.

    The same testing company that is now providing a rationale for Stossel to federalize education in order to privatize it.

  20. Check your assumptions. Why is “diversifying” higher head a good goal?

    1. Higher ed… my head wasn’t high when writing that.

  21. Why is “diversifying” higher ed a good goal?

    Because a population with a variety of genitals (no penises) and skin tones (no whiteys) who all think exactly what they are told to think is the end goal.

  22. Back in the 1960s when I was in high school almost no one graduated with a 4.0 GPA. Once I got to college my old high school (along with a host of others) added what were called advanced courses high performing students could take. Thing was instead of an A counting as a 4.0 in GPA computing it counted as a 5.0 so it was now possible to graduate with a higher than 4.0 GPA if you took enough advanced classes.

    Truth be told most of my high school classes were a joke and as Woody Allen said 90% of life is showing up and 95% of life is showing up on time. Once I was in the US Army and learned this lesson things really changed. My under grad GPA was higher than my high school GPA and my post grad grades were even better.

    I also had what was called work/study jobs in grad school/law school where I got paid very well. Started with government jobs and the next year the job was with a consulting firm.

  23. The main advantage of college is not the content of what you learn, but connections you make, and this is why Ivy grads end up in positions of wealth and power. Take that away, and elite colleges lose most of their value.

  24. Getting rid of the SAT would only increase the number of college applicants which would not be able to complete college. Now I say that a college could have a program that would allow students with lower SAT scores to take provisional classes to prove that they can handle college level coursework. If they do will in the first the student would be allow to take the second. Each semester which the student does will the student could take the next. But this program could not be limited to certain class of student nor could it be based upon race.

    1. How is that different than the two flagship universities in Florida, UF and FSU, having an incoming freshman class that fully 30%+ of the students are enrolled in remedial English or remedial math?

  25. “It is true that high school grades predict 33 percent of college grades, while tests predict 32 percent. But that is just barely “inferior.” Combining grades and SATs predicts 42 percent of college grades, which makes the tests useful.”

    Stossel doesn’t cite the research or even really define what is meant when says that grades and/or scores “predict [X] percent of college grades”, but that increase obtained by combining SAT scores with HS grades is not impressing me. Especially since it still comes up short of 50%. What is the ability to predict college grades when colleges look at not just the applicant’s GPA, but also the rigor of their HS courses? (Taking chemistry and physics among their science courses vs. Marine Science or Earth Science, for instance, or taking more than the minimum three science classes required, getting to Pre-Calculus or Calculus for math rather than “Liberal Arts Math”, taking honors, AP, or IB courses instead of standard level, and so on.) What about the college application essay? Does being able to demonstrate solid writing skills better predict success? How about a robust list of extra-curricular activities, leadership roles, volunteering, or even work that demonstrates responsibility and time-management?

    There are many things a college application contains that gives a solid impression of what a student is capable of besides a number from a standardized test. Since Stossel put stock in whatever this research was that evaluated the ability of scores and grades to predict college grades, perhaps he could tell us how all of those things factor into predicting college success. Then we might be able to judge whether a multi-billion dollar industry in giving and preparing students for standardized tests is really worth that money.

  26. “Critics claim the tests are culturally biased and say that’s why Blacks and Latinos don’t score as well. But that doesn’t explain why Asians do so well. In fact, Asians get the best SAT scores.”

    What is it about the tests that these critics claim makes them “culturally biased”? Maybe Stossel can explain that before he dismisses those claims as being subverted by the success of Asian students. Unless he is saying that a test can only be “culturally biased” against all minority groups at once, rather than being biased against the ones with the highest rates of poverty and historically unequal access to education.

    “Tiwalayo Aina, a black student at MIT, got good SAT scores. He tweeted, “The SAT is fairer than the alternative: needing my parents to connect me with a…professor.””

    Here Stossel is implicitly acknowledging the truth. That unequal access to the levers of power is major driver of the unequal access to higher education. It is a fact that when you look at enrollment in Ivy League schools, you see that a large portion of the student body attended elite private schools that boast high admission rates among their graduates to Ivy League schools. Those are not private schools that students can get vouchers to attend. Their exclusivity is their biggest selling point. Sure, they will give some scholarships to poor, minority students that already show that they have the intellect, talent, and parental support to excel, but that isn’t going to serve any students that don’t already have that going for them.

  27. Stossel, Riley, and the school choice faithful on the right are not showing any real interest in understanding the issues surrounding education. They are just looking to push their solution, which will fix everything with the magic of Free Market. What do successful charter and private schools do differently than less successful schools of any type? What is different in how they recruit, train, compensate, and retain the best teachers? What is different in how they hold students accountable for their work? What is different in how they get parents involved? What is different in the curriculum offered? These details should be what these articles are about. If you really want better results for all students, then you want to know what actually works and what doesn’t.

    By the way, there are certainly successful traditional public schools, as these arguments are always focused on the so-called “failing” public schools in poor, urban areas that serve large minority populations. No one is pointing to public schools in upper middle-class neighborhoods and labeling them as “failing”.

  28. Unfortunately, some students fail SAT because of low motivation and struggle to cope with their assignments. As long as essay writing sites are legal,, students will be unmotivated to study and learn new things. They’re unmotivated to do well on SAT, so getting rid of it is not the option. Higher institutions should change their focus and concentrate on some other problems (and I must say that there are quite a lot of those to be found in our education system).

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