In the Loop: Standardized tests lack adequate capabilities to evaluate diverse applicants

The College Board recently announced a major overhaul of the SAT. This news has prompted a closer look at how standardized testing is used nationally for college admissions purposes.

A recent study released by the College Board showed that students with family incomes of more than $200,000 averaged a score of 1714 (out of 2400) on the SAT, whereas students with family incomes of $20,000 and below received an average of 1326. This means that the most economically-advantaged students average 388 points more on the SAT than the most economically-disadvantaged students. Many of these low income students do just as well in the classroom as their higher-income counterparts, but still miss the mark on standardized tests.

Adding to the problem, students with low scores tend to be the same individuals who cannot afford to take test prep courses. A 2009 report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling showed that test prep courses and coaching increase SAT scores by an average of 30 points, but these courses can cost thousands of dollars.

Some schools, including Whitworth, attempt to assist lower-scoring but high-achieving students by offering routes to admission that do not include standardized testing. At Whitworth, prospective students can opt to go through an interview process instead of submitting SAT or ACT scores.

The issue is, at Whitworth, students without SAT scores become ineligible for the university’s most valuable academic scholarship. In other words, Whitworth excludes these otherwise intelligent, low-income students from reaping the rewards of their hard work in the classroom.

Whitworth is not alone in this, however. In fact, Whitworth treats these students with more regard than is perhaps the norm in higher education. Many schools will not consider students without standardized test scores.

Studies have shown that high school GPA, for example, is a much more accurate predictor of college success than standardized test scores, while not showing as much of an economic gap.

Higher education consistently promotes and values diversity — as should be the case. But in order to achieve the goal of a diverse student body, it is critically important to keep in mind the diverse backgrounds students are coming from and provide aptitude measurements accordingly.

Editorials in the “In the Loop” section reflect the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, comprised of five editors. 

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