For years the woke elite at places like the Brookings Institute and the NEA have warned of the racism embedded in standardized testing. Now, after dropping their SAT/ACT requirements during COVID-19, the admissions office at MIT is reinstating the university’s policy of requiring the tests to “help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT. We believe a requirement is more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy.”
So are standardized tests racist or not? MIT’s Dean of Admissions, Stu Schmill, explains the university’s position, writing:
When we initially suspended our testing requirement due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote:
This was not a decision we made lightly. Our reliance on these tests is outcome-driven and applicant-oriented: we don’t value scores for their own sake, but only to the extent that they help us make better decisions for our students, which they do. We regularly research the outcomes of MIT students and our own admissions criteria to ensure we make good decisions for the right reasons, and we consistently find that considering performance on the SAT/ACT, particularly the math section, substantially improves the predictive validity of our decisions with respect to subsequent student success at the Institute.
Within our office, we have a dedicated research and analysis team that continuously studies our processes, outcomes, and criteria to make sure we remain mission-driven and student-centered. During the pandemic, we redoubled our efforts to understand how we can best evaluate academic readiness for all students, particularly those most impacted by its attendant disruptions. To briefly summarize a great deal of careful research:
- our ability to is significantly improved by considering standardized testing — especially in mathematics — alongside other factors
- some standardized exams besides the SAT/ACT can help us evaluate readiness, but access to these other exams is generally relative to the SAT/ACT
- as a result, not having SATs/ACT scores to consider tends to relative to having them, given these other inequalities
Our research can’t explain why these tests are so predictive of academic preparedness for MIT, but we believe it is likely related to the centrality of mathematics — and mathematics examinations — in our education. All MIT students, regardless of intended major, must pass two semesters of calculus, plus two semesters of calculus-based physics, The substance and pace of these courses are both very demanding, and they culminate in to In other words, there is no path through MIT that does not rest on a rigorous foundation in mathematics, and we need to be sure our students are ready for that
To be clear, performance on standardized tests is not the central focus of our holistic admissions process. We do not prefer people with perfect scores; indeed, despite what some people infer from our statistics, we do not consider an applicant’s scores at all beyond the point where preparedness has been established as part of a multifactor analysis. Nor are strong scores themselves sufficient: our research shows students also need to do well in high school and have a strong match for MIT, including the resilience to rebound from its challenges, and the initiative to make use of its resources. That’s why we don’t select students solely on how well they score on the tests, but only consider scores to the extent they to not just to survive, but thrive, at MIT.
At the same time, standardized tests also because they do not attend schools that offer advanced coursework, cannot afford expensive enrichment opportunities, cannot expect lengthy letters of recommendation from their overburdened teachers, or are otherwise By using the in the service of our mission, we have helped while too; our strategic and purposeful use of testing has been crucial to
Like all of you, we had hoped that, by now, the pandemic would be behind us. It is not, nor is it clear if or when it will be. However, the has reduced the health risks of in-person educational activities, while the and the forthcoming Digital SAT, have increased opportunities to take the tests. Given the crucial role these tests play in our process, we have — after careful consideration within our office, and with the unanimous support of our student-faculty advisory committee — decided to reinstate our SAT/ACT requirement
We are reinstating our requirement, rather than adopting a more flexible policy, to be transparent and equitable in our expectations. Our concern is that, without the compelling clarity of a requirement, some well-prepared applicants won’t take the tests, and when they apply. We believe it will be if we require all applicants who take the tests to disclose their scores.
So, if you are applying to MIT in the future, we will normally expect you to submit an SAT or ACT score. If you are unable to take the tests because of a disaster or disruption, because the SAT/ACTs in your region, or for another exceptional reason, we will give you space on the application to explain your circumstances, and we will still grant you a full and fair review. In such cases, we will not make any negative presumptions regarding your academic readiness based solely on the absence of SAT/ACT scores, but will instead draw upon the lessons we have learned during the pandemic to make the best, most informed decision we can by
Read more from Schmill and his many footnotes here.
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