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Valuing Facts Over Feelings

Below is a letter our Founder, Danny Tejada, wrote in response to a New York Times op-ed about the SAT.

To the Editor:

The Opinion piece entitled "Can the Meritocracy Survive Without the SAT?" is an excellent picture of what's wrong with mainstream media reporting on college admissions. Outlets like yours often publish people who don't have any experience in the field. Pieces like the one Ross Douthat wrote creates a lot of confusion, anger and drum up racism against Black and Brown students who earned their spots at selective colleges by sharing misinformation and lies.

Douthat says the reason why colleges are "ditching the SAT" is because "Asian American SAT scores rose to the point where elite colleges were accused of discriminating against Asian American applicants to maintain the racial balance they desired, this led to lawsuits, and those lawsuits seem poised to yield a Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action." This is flat-out false. Did he forget that schools were closed in 2020 due to COVID? Most students in America couldn't test for the SAT or the ACT. The few who were able to were likely to get COVID. You also had a few wealthy enough to travel to distant states to sit for the exam. This is why most colleges went test optional.

When high schools opened for testing, most colleges stayed test optional because they saw an increase in applications, which allowed them to achieve record-low acceptance rates. These acceptance rates and inflated test score averages can improve their US News and World Report rankings and increase their bond rating on Wall Street. An improved bond rating allows colleges to borrow more money to improve their facilities and attract more wealthy students. In addition, schools like Columbia (which has gone test optional permanently and wasn't reported by your outlet) find that test optional students are thriving on campus compared to their test-submitting peers.

Douthat says the link between income and SAT scores isn't as tight as people suggest. This goes against College Boards' 2022 Total Group SAT Suite of Assessments Annual Report. In the report, you will see that most test takers come from the highest-income households. You will also see considerable gaps in average scores between income. The highest-income students scored 247 points more on average than the lowest-income students. ACT's report from 2022 shows significant gaps in average scores as well. In the report, most test takers come from the highest-income households. The highest-income students scored 7.9 points more on average than the lowest-income students (this gap is more significant than the SAT gap when you convert).

The article Douthat cites says that test optional policies do not increase racial diversity is false. The report says there was a "10% to 12% increase in first-time students from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds." This is significant. Every study I have seen (including one from the National Association for College Admissions Counseling from 2018) has proven that test optional policies increase racial and income diversity on college campuses. Test optional policies are only as good as the people making the decisions.

Being a college counselor for over ten years, I know that the SAT and ACT can't measure passion, drive, and resourcefulness. I have seen many test optional students from all racial and income backgrounds succeed at test optional schools. Thanks to New York State's Opportunity Programs, I have seen students with low test scores get a chance at college and succeed, including myself. These students go on to contribute to our society and economy as they climb the social mobility ladder. These are things a test score can't predict.

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