Why do people lie so much? Why do we persistently spout demonstrably false statements simply to provide others who cling to the same skewed biases purchase to elevate rumors and wishes to the level of accepted fact, even when all evidence belies our flawed reasoning?
No, I’m not talking about politics here. Instead, let’s turn those jaundiced eyes to college admissions policies.
The global pandemic may not have inspired the crusade against standardized test scores in college admissions, but it certainly energized the opposition. The expansion of test optional admissions, while the farthest thing possible from a panacea for structural educational inequity, empowers more students to apply to selective schools they might have otherwise given up on. Unfortunately, such policies don’t materially improve an applicant’s chance at admission to those schools. The writing on the wall for the coalescing college graduating class of 2025 suggests that higher education still places great value on objective assessments like the SAT and ACT.
Why, then, do critics continue to perpetuate the myth that test scores are not predictive?
Everywhere you look–and I do look everywhere when it comes to this topic–opponents of standardized testing insist, in spite of abundant evidence to the contrary, that test scores don’t provide much guidance on prospective success in college. Then again, they also claim that the tests are racist and classist without acknowledging the obvious advantages privilege bestows in every aspect of school and life. But the falsehoods about predictive validity hurt so much because of the great pains test makers must make to invest their instruments with the holy testing trinity of validity, reliability, and fairness–elements grades seem to be losing at more and more schools.
I’m not the only one aggravated by these baseless claims. The omnivorous intellect behind Dynomight addressed this issue head-on by proving how the irrelevance of test scores is greatly exaggerated through a potent combination of evidence and reasoning. The author accomplished this by digging into the source material for most of these assertions, which is Allensworth and Clark’s 2020 paper High School GPAs and ACT Scores as Predictors of College Completion. After lots of cool statistical analysis and data visualization, the conclusion is both sensible and predictable:
It’s true that GPA does a bit better than the ACT. But if you care about that difference, you should care even more about the difference between (GPA only) and (GPA plus ACT). It’s not coherent to simultaneously claim that the GPA is better than the ACT and also that the ACT doesn’t add value to the GPA.
I would do this brilliant analysis injustice by quoting it any further, so instead I highly recommend reviewing the full article. And add it to the stack of supporting documents for what has long been known to be true, no matter how loath some are to admit it: SAT and ACT scores continue to be strongly predictive of college performance as well as student retention and college readiness.