The University of California eliminates all standardized tests for admission

November 20, 2021 • 11:30 am

As I wrote in January, the whole University of California system was planning to abandon the usual standardized tests used to assess applicants from high school (SATs and ACTs). They did this despite a committee convened earlier to study the problem, which recommended that these standardized tests be retained as they were better predictors of college performance than were grade-point averages. The University ignored the advice of its own committee. As I wrote then,

Recently, the University of California decided to eliminate tests like SATs as requirements for in-state applicants, making them optional for the next two years. Then, in 2023, students will not be allowed to even submit those scores. This happened despite the recommendation of both its own Chancellor and a panel convened by the University system itself, both of which recommended that SAT-like tests be retained as mandatory for applicants. The only reason that the University could possibly have for overriding its own panel’s recommendation is that test scores highlight racial disparities and could exacerbate at the U of C if considered in a largely meritocratic admissions system.

For reasons I can’t fathom, the University of California, after ditching the SATs and ACTs, recommended that the system devise its own standardized test, to be implemented in 2025.  But. . . [now] they’ve decided they can’t do that in a timely fashion, and so the U of C is likely to ditch all standardized tests—for good.  This has already happened in over 1,000 other colleges and universities (roughly a quarter of higher-education institutions in the U.S.), a wholesale dismantling of the meritocracy. (n.b.: I don’t think that test-scores or grades should be the sole criterion for college admissions, as there are other criteria of achievement that aren’t measured by these statistics.)

The number of colleges that don’t require test scores for admissions has now risen to 1,815, approaching half of all colleges and universities.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times (below), another committee convened to study what alternative tests might work came up with the answer “no go.” And this is the result (click on screenshot to read, or make a judicious inquiry if you’re paywalled):

UC Provost Michael Brown declared the end of testing for admissions decisions at a Board of Regents meeting, putting a conclusive end to more than three years of research and debate in the nation’s premier public university system on whether standardized testing does more harm than good when assessing applicants for admission.

“UC will continue to practice test-free admissions now and into the future,” Brown said to the regents, during a discussion about a possible alternative to the SAT and ACT tests.

Testing supporters argue that standardized assessments provide a uniform measure to predict the college performance of students from varied schools and backgrounds. But UC ultimately embraced opposing arguments that high school grades are a better tool without the biases based on race, income and parent education levels found in tests.

I’m not sure what they mean by “biases based on race, income, and parent education levels”. Of course those factors affect scores, but scores are partly there to try to determine which factors affect performance. And SAT scores are also a way to identify minority students whose grades might not be great but have high performance on standardized test. As for bias, as far as I know the SAT has indeed vetted its questions for racial bias and eliminated any that could be construed as reflecting on racial “culture.”

Everybody knows, but nobody admits, that the tests were nixed because minorities scored worse than whites or Asians. Thus, if you used the tests as criteria for admission, Hispanics and blacks would have lower chances of getting in.  Here are total SAT scores from 2018 broken down by sex and ethnicity. As you see, Asians are the highest by far, followed by whites, mixed-race students and then Pacific Islanders and Hispanics (about a tie) and then blacks, who are about tied with Native Americans.

In California a recent referendum failed to overturn a state law stipulating that race cannot be considered in admission to state colleges.

This puts administrators in a conundrum, for if you use SATs as a major criterion, you wouldn’t even come close to “equity” in the class (i.e., students represented in about the same proportions as ethnic groups occur in the population). That’s why they ditched the SATs and are going to a more “holistic” system where you can use assessments based on less stringent criteria as well as subjective measures.  The school won’t admit all this, but it’s a wink-wink nod-nod action. Instead, they make noises about the use of SATs leading to a “test-prep industry” which could “further exacerbate social inequities among low-income students unable to pay for such training.”  But you can get training for free, and even the paid training has been shown to have at best a minimal effect on average SAT scores.

Here’s what they propose to “step up other ways to achieve equity in admissions” since the standardized tests are considered “biased”. Note the greater scope for subjectivity in some areas:

Without testing requirements, Drake added, UC attracted a record-breaking number of freshman applications for fall 2021 — more than 200,000 — and admitted the most diverse class ever. UC admissions officers have said they were able to thoroughly evaluate the flood of applications without test scores, using 13 other factors in the system’s review process, such as a student’s high school grade-point average, the rigor of courses taken, special talents, essays and extracurricular activities.

The faculty committee said UC should step up other ways to advance equity in admissions. Recommendations included a closer partnership between UC and the K-12 system with greater access to college-preparatory courses required for admission; more state funding for academic preparation programs, and enhanced monitoring to make sure UC is reaching underserved high schools.

The report also called for more funding to help UC thoroughly assess applications, provide anti-bias training for application readers and strengthen supports to help students complete their degrees.

While they don’t admit the purpose of ditching SATs and ACTs, they do say the tests should go bye-bye because they are tainted with racism:

Board Chair Cecilia Estolano called her vote to eliminate SAT and ACT testing requirements one of her proudest moments as a regent. She said the next pressing task is to double down on ways to prepare more students for UC admission and support them once enrolled.

“We know we’re dealing with generations of educational inequity baked in discrimination, baked in structural impediments to our students,” she said. “If we’re going to continue to try to expand educational access in an equitable way … we have to provide the supports to enable our students to succeed.”

One note: not all high schools are doing away with standardized tests:

And UC’s decision does not spell the end of SAT and ACT testing in California. Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second largest school district, still administers the test to its high school students and counselors advise them to take it to maximize opportunities to apply to other colleges.

Now Berkeley isn’t doing all that badly with racial inequities in graduation rates:

UC reports its overall six-year graduation rate to be about 84 percent by last year. The UC rate was 75 percent for black students, about 77 percent for Latinos, 89 percent for Asian and Pacific Islanders and 86 percent for whites.

But there are still racial disparities of about 10%. And in terms of the student population itself, with data taken only from Berkeley,  we find substantial inequities in racial proportions:

The enrolled student population at University of California-Berkeley, both undergraduate and graduate, is 30.2% Asian, 26.8% White, 14.1% Hispanic or Latino, 5.36% Two or More Races, 2.13% Black or African American, 0.153% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.148% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders.

The population of the U.S. is about 18% Hispanic, 62% white, 12% black, 1% Native Americans, and 6% Asian.  At Berkeley, then, Hispanics are a bit underrepresented, Whites way underrepresented, blacks substantially underrepresented, Native Americans underrepresented by about sixfold, and the biggest disparity seen is among Asians, constituting 6% of the population but over 30% of Berkeley students. That, of course mirrors the performance of these groups on standardized tests, with the exception of whites.

So what to do? Berkeley doesn’t want an all-Asian-and-white student population, and neither do I.  The question is whether you should aim at pure equity, which means considerable lowering of the bar for admissions standards. It’s the usual tradeoff between merit and affirmative action, though California is forbidden to use the latter measure in any explicit way.

This is a tough problem, but it doesn’t help to throw out one measure of merit, and a good one: the standardized tests. My own view is that schools should set a bar above which all students are considered “qualified”. Then you have a pool of students who will survive and thrive at Berkeley. What to do with the pool? I believe that Steve Pinker suggests just having a lottery for admission within the pool, so that, if you’re above the bar. any extra merit won’t gain you a higher chance of admission.

I don’t favor the lottery. I favor affirmative action in the pool above the bar: not just giving minority students higher weight than others, but also other underrepresented students who could enrich the classes, like older students, veterans, and so on.  Sadly, that kind of affirmative action for race is, as I said, outlawed in California.

The Supreme Court ruled in the Bakke case that race can be considered as a criterion for admission because diversity was seen as an innate good. I favor it as a form of reparations for the terrible way we treated minorities in the past, as well as ensuring that students have role models for success. The latter presumes that Berkeley students, for example, will get visible and good positions in society, and some will become professors. That’s why I also favor affirmative action in hiring. But again we have the problem of trading off credentials versus equity.

But the point of all this is that one way to assess quality—standardized tests—is being removed from not just California schools, but many American colleges, medical schools, and so on. I see that as unjustified if the tests are not themselves racist, and I don’t think they are. (Kendi, however, would assert that unequal outcomes is prima facie evidence that the test are racist.).

It’s better to have more rather than less information on students, though it seems some people prefer less. Then adjustment for racial balance can take place in the way I see it. Yet one thing we cannot do is lie to ourselves about why we’re deep-sixing these tests. What is the downside, really, of requiring SATs and ACTs?

h/t: Luana

41 thoughts on “The University of California eliminates all standardized tests for admission

  1. Testing is a good predictor of college success and ability to handle difficult intellectual demands.

    So, What happens if you admit an appreciable number of students no ready to meet rigorous course demand? Will teachers have to water down their courses? Accept higher failure rates?

    In other words, Will this turn into leveling down?

    1. It’s happening all over Germany at least in some subjects/degrees, although here, it’s not about “diversity”, at least it wasn’t until recently. Lots of people who should not be at a university and who 20 or 30 years ago wouldn’t have been, or would have quit after failing rigorous first-semester classes, are being helped through the system. It’s ideologues from above (politics, OECD) who for reasons I cannot fathom want this quantity (i.e. more graduates) not quality approach, and sadly the universities complied.

      1. “Lots of people who should not be at a university …”

        Well, none of the students should be there really – in fact, the university makes all of them leave within four years.

    2. I remember being told about medical school entry in Italy in the 1970’s (part of a congratulatory lecture at UCL that said ‘ you’ve done the hard part by getting in; don’t mess up and you will pass.’ Not true for everyone as it turned out!) Italy had no admission requirements. Classes that were thousands in size. Splendid amounts of tuition charged. And 90% thrown out at the end of the first year when they failed their exams.

  2. I’ve quit looking in mirrors since I don’t like the lies they tell. Sounds like I’m well qualified to be provost in the UC system. Had I but known.

  3. There exists, of course, no evidence whatsoever that these standardized tests are in any way “racist”. The thoroughly anti-rational approach of Kendi and all the other high priests in the cult of “anti-racism” provides an excellent example of the “disparity fallacy”, which has been analyzed very clearly by Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and Coleman Hughes, who was perhaps the first writer to use the term (in an essay from Quillette posted three years ago and entitled “The Racism Treadmill”).

  4. Standardized tests have the advantage of being >>standardized<<, in that they compare a broad pool of people across the country all by the same criteria. The results may not be the only thing a college should care about–I don't think they are for any college, anyway–but they are useful and reliable/reproducible measures. I'd be interested in a double-blind testing of whatever the 13 other factors mentioned above are to measure consistency of application and reproducibility. If they are as consistent and reliable (or more so) than the standardized tests, then fine. But even then, they could still then be used along with those to provide better measures. Otherwise it's going to lead to MORE bias and subjectivity in admissions, and probably to a diminution of the quality of education in the UC system and even more probably in their reputation among potential employers.

    1. >Standardized tests have the advantage of being >>standardized<<, in that they compare a broad pool of people across the country all by the same criteria.

      Except they don't. I know a lot of people in Europe and Asia who have taken the SAT and GRE. The tests do not compare people across a single country, but across many countries. I have also offered to proctor certain standardized tests and was told that I was not permitted to do so in my country because standardized tests are only standardized for certain demographics and geographies. A Mexican moving to the US can tak the SAT more easily than a US American moving to Mexico. The implication is that the test is available based on residency, but the test is only applicable assuming a similar background. Basically, some standardized tests are offered too widely; some are offered too narrowly.

      1. Very interesting. But it does at least sound as though they have attempted to make the test consistent for large groups of people, given different cultural backgrounds, etc. I do see how that might make one wonder whether, for instance, a particular score on the SAT in, say, Mexico (as you say) would mean truly the same thing as one in the US. Still, it’s much less subjective than local grading and the preconceptions and agendas of a University’s admissions committee. Though, perhaps, it’s not unreasonable for the universities to want to apply ONLY their criteria. But still, they could get the test scores and weight them as part of their process, and at least – for the most part – they would be a reliable and reproducible assessment.

  5. I understand the colleges’ dilemma, but this all fails to address the root problem, that the K-12 system is unequal. The reason a large precentage of minority students do poorly on exams is that they attend worse schools, with less resources and qualified teachers, and that’s because funding from district to district depends largely on local taxes, and because attempts at integration through busing have largely been abandoned.

    If you go to high school in Richmond or Hayward, you’re not getting anywhere near the education that you would in Los Altos or Woodside, and if your parents can afford to live in Los Altos, then they can afford to get you private tutoring and test prep.

    Until this inequity is addressed, the SAT problem has no good solution.

    1. Blaming the teachers is a favorite pastime in this country (and this site, I’m sad to say) but urban schools have a lot of great, highly qualified and very hard working teachers. What they also have a lot of is troubled students from horrible homes in horrible neighborhoods. That is what chases many other excellent teachers out of the urban schools. It takes a very dedicated person to withstand the rude, angry, violent students filling their classrooms. Students with so much emotional damage thanks to their home lives that educating them is almost impossible. And still these teachers try, being thankful for every small gain and extremely grateful for each capable, respectful student (and parents) they manage to find in all the daily misery. Before blaming teachers we need to look at the student, the family, the community, the culture, and our anti-intellectual nation as a whole. Teachers are but one part of the equation, and by no means the most influential part.

      1. Nothing in my post blamed the teachers. I have deep respect for all K-12 teachers, a job I couldn’t do. What I said was that there was a lack of qualified teachers in poor districts, and the reasons for that are what you listed. Those districts are more likely to be short-staffed. They also don’t have as many extra-curricular activities or classes in art and music, which round out a student’s education.

        Whatever the causes, in the few cases where busing actually occurred, poor inner-city students who attended good suburban schools did just as well academically as the other kids. So yes, the causes are complicated but money and resources are certainly a part of it.

        1. You are right about the extracurricular activities and arts and music. (I remember statistics on this in R. Putnam’s book “Our kids”). Could you cite a study that shows differences disappeared for the bused children? It is well known that the quality of other students in the same class is the major single influence on individual achievement after parents’ SES, so a large effect wouldn’t be surprising, but I had heard that busing for whatever reason did not work as promised, and Wikipedia gives several large studies (and none to the contrary) that found no positive effects for black bused students. Not sure whether anyone ever tested whether it had effects on white students. Forced busing may have different and less positive effects from a naturally integrated school in a mixed neighbourhood.
          Robert Putnam is good at showing that this is now not mainly a racial inequality problem, but a class/poverty problem. Racial differences have diminished since the sixties, but class differences have risen sharply.

    2. The reason a large precentage of minority students do poorly on exams is that they attend worse schools, with less resources and qualified teachers, …

      I agree with you that funding should be equalised. But that’s not “the” reason, it is one possible reason. Studies show that such factors are less important than in usually supposed — or, putting it another way, that teachers and schools are all good enough such that the main factor that makes the difference between a high-performing school and a low-performing one is the student intake.

      I would bet that if one took low- and high-performing schools, and switched the cohorts of kids around, keeping everything else the same, then which school was the higher performer would also switch.

      1. The figures on funding per pupil in various cities clearly demonstrate that there is no necessary correlation between what is spent and what is achieved scholastically. The numbers from Baltimore and DC, for example, prove that a large expenditure per pupil is no guarantee of good results by any metric. One can also adduce the case of Mark Zuckerberg’s gift of one hundred million dollars to Newark’s schools and the case of the famous Kansas City experiment of two decades ago; both suggest that simply an increase in funding is never sufficient.

    3. “The reason a large precentage of minority students do poorly on exams is that they attend worse schools, with less resources and qualified teachers….”

      What constitutes a school, “worse” or not? The degradation of the material condition of a school can make it worse, but I gather that you are not talking about that. When people speak of a school, are they effectively speaking of the teachers there? All the resources of a school/school system are presumably directed at the effectiveness of the student-teacher interface (if I may use that business, technical, managerial, professional ).jargon

      As the old saying goes, every tub sits on its own bottom. This goes for both teachers and students. As students progress from K to 12 and beyond, they must necessarily take on more personal responsibility for their learning.

      First, the student has to actually show up. Beyond that, the student has to be inclined to enter the classroom in a timely manner (as opposed to running the halls and being loud and darting into the classroom at the last possible moment – from my experience this happens more so in middle and high school as opposed to elementary) and actually sit down and be prepared to pay attention and do the work.

      It only takes one willfully “oppositionally defiant” student to make life miserable for the other students in the class. The student’s home life, parental training and culture would seem to have a bearing on the matter. On a daily basis, teachers across the fruited plain are repeatedly saying to students words to-the-effect, “I am looking at you to see if you are looking here/paying attention.” Or, in response to students of the habit of or feeling breathtakingly entitled to talking out loud whenever they please, saying, “I guess I’ll just have to wait my turn.” Depending on how often teachers have to deal with such behaviors, it is wearisome and enervating and not a carrot to enter or remain in the profession. (Surely not a few teachers bite their tongue to keep from sarcastically saying, “Do we need to bring in a delegation of kindergartners to give you some refresher training in good behavior?”)

      Occasionlly here or there I hear or read of some adult whining, “My teacher should have made me (do whatever it was the teacher should have made the student do, which the student could have easily done if s/he WANTED to). Students reasonably and appropriately have some responsibility and accountability for determining whether a school is (not so) good.

    4. Look at the actual enrollment numbers. Eligibility for UC and CSU admission already encompasses eligibility for the entire system, not eligibility for one campus. Combined across the entire CSU system, Latinas already make up by far the largest group of students, with whites in position 3. In UC overall Latinas have passed whites for enrollment. The anti-SAT movement is a white power strategy designed to increase/protect lower-achieving (and falling) white admissions, and to block Latino/Latina achievement.

      Many Regents are looking at just UCLA and Berkeley (and San Diego), but this anti-SAT decision will make those UC campuses “whitier” and “richier” than currently. Why? Teachers are 2/3 white. Many campuses in rich communities offer way more qualifying Honors and AP courses than poor and mixed community schools. And each campus has a separate admissions team that decides independently who gets in.

      It currently is illegal to consider any 12th grade course performance in UC or CSU admissions, based on UC Regents and CSU Trustees’ policies. So even a crazy-ambitious kid who takes 6 AP courses in 12th grade and gets straight A grades gets ZERO admission advantage because the application deadline is Nov. 30. And…CSU has no essays for admission.

      All or nothing for 10th and 11th. Senior year grades have ZERO impact for UC and CSU applications.

      So wealthy kids who accelerate enough to take the “right” courses in 10th and 11th will have the higher GPAs and the kids of color who peak in late 11th grade no longer will have a chance to level up with good SAT scores.

      A kid who works weekends to help the family and blurps with a few B grades in early 10th grade now has ZERO chance to get into Berkeley or UCLA.

      I write as someone who served 16 years on the Democratic National Committee and 12 years as a locally-elected education official. I know John Perez personally and I have worked with him many times. John says he wants to diversify his alma mater of UC Berkeley. But this decision to get rid of SAT scores will do exactly the opposite of what John says he wants because a couple B grades in first semester of 10th grade are an academic death penalty now with no opportunity for a late 11th grade great SAT.

      There is zero statistical possibility that the limited cohort of lower-scoring SAT Latinos have sufficiently excellent GPAs with enough advanced coursework in 10th and 11th grades ever to qualify under any acceptance angle for Berkeley or UCLA admissions or admissions to the competitive CSU campuses like San Diego State.

      Also, two-thirds of teachers in California are white. Does John really believe that these teachers (especially in suburban districts) will track Latino and Black kids into the advanced math and science middle school courses necessary for them to be eligible for the GPA boosting courses in high school that are mandatory for Berkeley and UCLA consideration?

      No way that will happen. The white power teachers totally played the Regents who say they are Brown advocates. Without the SAT and ACT, those white teachers can and will veto brown kid advancement, restore white student admission spots at UC and CSU and destroy Latino and Latina gains that have moved brown kids past white kids overall in the UC and CSU systems.

      As a statewide group white teachers never can be trusted to crush mid-range white students’ aspirations in favor of higher-achieving brown students. And crushing, even eradicating the dreams of middling whites is the only option. There are not enough open spots to admit all the mid-level whites and the higher-achieving browns. The SAT was closing the gap. Now the Regents have given power to destroy brown advancement to the 2/3 of white teachers who never will put brown kids first.

      And, don’t forget that a B in Honors English 10 now is an academic death penalty for admissions, compared to an A in regular English 10. The UC cannot give extra consideration anymore to that Honors course due to Regents’ policy. How many brown families know about that tidbit?

      Chris Stampolis
      Santa Clara, CA

  6. Does every university need to be representative of the nation or is it better to be more locally representative? Or somewhere in between, depending on how popular they are nationally or internationally? My community college was in an urban area and had a larger population of black students than the rural state university where I finished my B.S., would this not affect who applies and who attends? But then what about the fact that their acceptance rates for both were quite high and the bar for admission (and frankly, level of education received) was quite low. I believe I had a pretty good ACT score (I’ve forgotten exactly what) but mediocre high school grades ( nearly dropped out due to depression, graduated by the skin of my teeth), low self esteem and low self confidence, as well as a lengthy gap of over 8 years between school and university. It seemed to me that anyone willing to apply themselves would get in
    And could do well, even if they had to do some remedial maths classes as I did. There’s nothing wrong with starting slowly and lowly and working your way up. At least that’s how I felt. Maybe I’m the wrong.

    1. Much thanks for your thoughtful comments. I contemplate what fraction of college students at universities – “elite” or otherwise – straight out of high school are leading what Thoreau called “lives of quiet desperation” because they don’t know why they are at college. I was one of those. Were I to do it over, I would have considered some combination of community college/military as a way to accomplish some college work and provide some breathing space for making long-term decisions. Of course, that is now. I wasn’t of that mindset at the time. I foolishly contemplate me now talking (trying to talk some sense) to me then.

      1. I appreciate and agree with your sentiments. I wish I had had the infrastructure available to help me opt out of the default progression. Unfortunately, most in my understanding, most students do not have alternatives explained to them. I would have loved for someone to explain, for example, that I could have joined a foreign military – and several of my friends did later. Unfortunately, schools tend to be limited to a very short list of domestic options.

  7. Remember how we all laughed when “Bluto” in “Animal House” said, “Seven years of college down the drain”? Apparently, Berkleyites wouldn’t get that joke. It wouldn’t make sense for High Schools in CA to stop SATs, unless the assumption was that their graduates would only go California state colleges, or until they stop being used generally. California is going to have a problem unless they can create an impartial set of standards for admission, publish them, and prove adherence to them.

  8. The 13 factors on which the U. Cal. now proposes to evaluate student applications include a number
    that make sense (such as “Outstanding work in one or more special projects in any academic field of study”) and some that are hopelessly subjective (” other significant experiences or achievements that demonstrate the student’s promise”). In the real world—the one of science, dentistry, and motorcycle maintenance—we would of course want to see serious (large scale, double blind, etc.) studies of the outcomes of basing admissions on these 13 factors. I suspect that such studies will either never be done, or never be considered. First, the committees that consider such things will consist mostly of educrats, who do not operate in the word of science, dentistry, and motorcycle maintenance. Second, the very act of serious (large scale, double blind, etc.) evaluation of anything is criticized as embodying white, “colonialist” thinking, and is thus inimical to the goal of universal Equity and perfection.

  9. My impression is that nearly everywhere in the US, the degree of support for primary and secondary education is determined ‘very’ locally. In particular, poor areas with low tax revenue provide far less public support for education of children and teenagers. Maybe I’m incorrect here, but if not, are there any other ‘western’ countries where this is the rule rather than exception? For example, in my province of Ontario in Canada, the degree of public support is the same everywhere I believe. There are still inequities due to very low population levels of course, and also brought on historically because of some racial enmity towards the indigenous. Education is a provincial matter in Canada, but there seem not to be a very great amount of variations between different provinces.

    In any case, and if I am correct about US, surely this is by far the biggest factor in the big racial differences in post secondary education success. It seems never to be discussed much in discussions about those differences. Is that because it is so hopelessly unlikely politically to ever get fixed?

    1. You state, correctly I believe, that public education spending in Ontario is the same all over, being a mixture of municipal school levies on property and provincial grants. (Funding in small remote northern communities is higher per capita due to dis-economies of scale.). So the question that follows immediately is, is this equity in educational funding associated with smaller inter-racial disparities in educational success than in the U.S. where funding is so municipally variable? Or are there still gaps indicative of something else?

      Non-Canadian readers should keep in mind that:

      1) “Black” Canadians were not brought to Canada as slaves* but rather immigrated here like everybody else, and continue to do so.

      2) Most Canadian parents, even those of substantial means, send their children to public primary and secondary schools. Gifted programs are available in most large Boards. Few except the very well-off even consider private schools except for children who don’t fit in well with the public system. (Catholic schools are publicly funded because of a constitutional quirk — think Green vs. Orange— which we can’t seem to grow out of, unfortunately.)

      3) What sets a great school apart, especially a K-8 local school, is the parents and kids in the neighbourhood. Since people with children typically live in the best neighbourhood they can afford, the sorting happens by class, not by race per se. A good neighbourhood, the type described by The Economist as “leafy”, would have a demographic similar to UC Berkeley. (“Asian” would include substantial South Asian as well as Chinese and SE Asian ancestry, and there would be a few more Black but many fewer indigenous, even though the latter are 5% of our population. Of course many “good” neighbourhoods are more heavily white than Berkeley but they don’t need to be in order to be thriving with good schools.)

      – – – –
      *There is evidence that a few prosperous 17th-Century settlers in New France kept slaves, as household servants only. The climate did not support a plantation slave economy.

      1. Yes, I certainly agree with your point near the end basically saying that the very little slavery here had much more to do with it not being economically viable, as opposed to some mythical moral superiority of ‘our’ pioneers versus theirs.

        1. I wasn’t making a point about moral rectitude among anyone’s pioneers. People make choices among those they see available to them. I mentioned it only because if I hadn’t, someone else would have.

          Do you know the answer to my question? Does equality in funding bring about equality in outcomes in Ontario?

          1. Perhaps my language is too flowery or something. But if you read it carefully, this is exactly what I was saying, that it was surely economic feasibility, not moral rectitude, which led to little slavery in the early days here. The “moral” is there because I cannot think of a 3rd alternative.

            Answers: Yes and yes. My answer is my opinion from less than ideal observation, and the word ‘equality’ is used in a less than completely strict sense of course, not to the nearest penny and the nearest integer exam % averages. Perhaps OISE or similar have some precision research there. It would be nice to think they have begun to pay more attention to the quantitative. I’ve not been paying much attention to them in recent decades.

  10. My opinion about affirmative action is different from Jerry’s. I think if we want to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, then we should stop discriminating on the basis of race, and let the chips fall where they may.

  11. If we must do away with testing, I say go with a straight lottery above a cutoff GPA; do away with all the subjective judging; stop discriminating against introverts and people with narrow interests and others not deemed special enough. You have a big pool – just pick people at random and you will have diversity across all criteria.

  12. Just from personal experience, my SAT score was not indicative of how well I would do in college. I did not do well at all on the test (and won’t admit just how badly that went), yet I graduated from college in the top 1% of the country.

    If a student’s application can’t tell you enough about them (high school GPA, school records, extracurriculars, volunteer work, interview, etc), then I don’t know what will. A standardized test is one piece in a puzzle and shouldn’t be given as much weight as it has. It’s just another source of stress because the student realizes that one test can make it or break it for them. Yes, you can retake it, but it’s just another expense in an already costly endeavor. UChicago doesn’t look at the SAT or ACT and that was one extra point in their favor. My son has applied to colleges – UChicago and Harvard are tied as his number one choice.

    1. “top 1% of the country”

      For such a ranking, how would one determine that ranking for a the set consisting of graduates of MIT (say) together with those of Oral Roberts University (if it exists!) or even say that former paragon of academic excellence known as Trump University?
      Or the graduates with a degree in Basket Weaving (Postmodern Style) with a minor in the Sociology of Left Handed Persons together with the graduates in Mathematics, perhaps from the same university?

    2. Irena, how can you possibly claim that you were in the top 1% of the country? What does “top 1%” even mean to you, when you already have revealed that you did not do well in your SAT?

      Do you claim that your high school GPA was top 1% in the country? If so, then let’s have a nice, open discussion about those details. As many crime shows state “You opened the door” to the discussion.l, as it is important for you to be one of the top 1%. How do you justify your self-placement?

      I continue to argue that as soon as Latina kids and others figured out how to do well on the SAT, suddenly the SAT no longer is an appropriate criterion and we all need a new set of secret subjective insiders-only admission rules. Seems like arguing to make “getting in” as coded as applying to a secret-vote country club, rather than a fair, equitable level-playing field competition.

      Chris Stampolis
      Santa Clara, CA

  13. The elimination of tests to increase equity in universities will make people that work at universities look great, but in real life it won’t decrease the gap in intellectual ability between groups.

  14. I am reading Walter Kirn’s thoughtful, mordantly funny “Lost In the Meritocracy”. Sample: “A natural-born child of the meritocracy, I’d been amassing momentum my whole life, entering spelling bees, vying for forensic medals, running my mouth in mock United Nations, and I knew only one direction: forward. I lived for prizes, plaques, citations, stars, and I gave no thought to any goal beyond my next appearance on the honor roll. Learning was secondary, promotion was primary. No one ever told me what the point was, except to keep accumulating points, and this struck me as sufficient. What else was there?”

  15. I acknowledge that standardized tests are not ideal, perfectly non-biased predictors of success. Nothing is. They are also not meaningless, and they are far less biased than grades, letters of recommendation, or any other information that we use for admissions. Removing them, without adding any new criteria, just means that we have less information on which to make a decision. I like the idea of using standardized tests to establish a minimum level of qualification. I know of many people from under-represented groups who had poor showings on grades, letters, etc., but demonstrated competence on their standardized tests, and that is how they were admitted. That avenue for success is now gone from the UC system. I don\’t see that as progress.

  16. In other news-hundereds of thousands of high schoolers sit for grueling all-day higher education qualifying exam.
    Having experienced something very similar myself, I have to say, that is about the only thing I miss about my birth country in the middle east. The competitive nature of higher education without a doubt laid the foundation for my professional accomplishments later in life.
    Is it any surprise that those with this kind of cultural background beat WHITE Americans at the SATs?
    It is not skin tone. It is culture and family structure that determines contributes to outcome. And of course in we are now the laughing stock of China, India etc and they will soon overtake us in peer reviewed publications, technological innovation etc.

    1. True, but likely they will be the poorly-remunerated/-benefitted adjunct types.

      I genuflect before such noble souls who run universities. It’s incredible to me that a J.D. type can be the president of a university, yet not qualifed to teach a kindergarten class.

      1. > It’s incredible to me that a J.D. type can be the president of a university, yet not qualifed to teach a kindergarten class.

        Those are totally different criteria. The assumption is that college students are introspective and know how to learn; kindergartners are not. Hell, I also know countries where ministers of education, etc., are expected to have military experience under the assumption that both military and education require discipline and hierarchy. Neither comparison is relevant.

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