MIT Reinstates Standardized Testing As Other Schools Move Toward “More Equitable” Admissions

We have been discussing how schools have been dropping the use of standardized tests to achieve diversity goals in admissions. That trend continued this month with Cal State dropping standardized testing “to level the playing field” for minority students. I have long been a critic of this movement given the overwhelming evidence that these tests allow an objective measure of academic merit and have great predictive value on the performance of students. One school, however, has returned to standardized testing: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services Stuart Schmill announced that it would reverse its earlier decision to allow applicants to skip the tests. The university disclosed that

“Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT.”

The refusal to yield on its standards may prove to be the single most important institutional decision of MIT since its founding.

The MIT decision stands in stark contrast to the decision of the University of California system. Notably, academics in the California system came to the same conclusion as those at MIT: these tests not only have the greatest predictive value for performance but play an important role in the advancement of minority students. University of California President Janet Napolitano, however, overrode those conclusions.

Napolitano responded to such criticism with a Standardized Testing Task Force in 2019. Many people expected the task force to recommend the cessation of standardized testing. The task force did find that 59 percent of high school graduates were Latino, African-American or Native American but only 37 percent were admitted as UC freshman students. The Task Force did not find standardized testing to be unreliable or call for its abandonment, however.

Instead, its final report concluded that “At UC, test scores are currently better predictors of first-year GPA than high school grade point average (HSGPA), and about as good at predicting first-year retention, [University] GPA, and graduation.”

Not only that, it found: “Further, the amount of variance in student outcomes explained by test scores has increased since 2007 … Test scores are predictive for all demographic groups and disciplines … In fact, test scores are better predictors of success for students who are Underrepresented Minority Students (URMs), who are first generation, or whose families are low-income.” In other words, test scores remain the best indicator for continued performance in college.

That clearly was not the result Napolitano or some others wanted. So, she simply announced a cessation of the use of such scores in admissions. The system will go to a “test-blind” system until or unless it develops its own test.

Ending standardized testing will have a notable impact on legal challenges to the use of race in college admissions. Last November, Californians rejected a resolution to restore affirmative action in college admissions.

Universities will now have to chose between the MIT v. UC models. The pressure on administrators is considerable to make tests optional in the name of equity. Many academics are unwilling to face the personal costs of opposing such changes when they could be portrayed as racist or reactionary.

The choice could not be more impactful for universities. MIT has decided to stand by its institutional commitment to academic excellence. It is a profile of academic courage that has been missing at many institutions of higher education.

134 thoughts on “MIT Reinstates Standardized Testing As Other Schools Move Toward “More Equitable” Admissions”

  1. Diversity is very important. And diversity in education is even more important.
    The simple answer is make curriculum that is suitable for variety of sectors. Do not standardize.
    If Blacks are good in sports, why not teach them that? Such as sports commenters, analyst, Managing teams, etc, not just playing.
    Forcing Blacks into a particular education system developed by europeans is equal to sending white kids to study in Chinese or Indian music and marial arts. Most will fail.

  2. My niece didn’t get into MIT last year – she had a 1580 on SAT, all honors classes. Worked her butt off for good grades since 1st grade. Guidance counselor said — “it’s your zip code.” Considering her parents are the most woke people I know – the irony was not lost on me.

    1. Of course, given their beliefs, it is probably likely that they would given their daughter’s spot at MIT for a worthy person of color.

  3. Finally, an institution that recognizes rascism and excellence. Their degrees will remain worthy.

  4. When a school, whether it’s a high school or university, drops standardized testing for applicants, in order to achieve skin-deep “diversity”:

    1. It’s racist because it punishes Asians, a statistically high-achieving subculture of America
    2. It punishes the work hard for a reward mentality that will pay off throughout a lifetime
    3. It’s racist because it shows a belief that black students will not qualify unless the bar is lowered.

    If you want more black students in highly academically competitive majors or schools, then improve the quality of education available to them AND get messaging out to the communities that studying hard, staying in school, avoiding drugs, avoiding crime, and waiting to have kids until marriage are provable steps to success. Asians are academically successful because their family culture puts extreme emphasis on the value of improving the mind, from schoolwork to classical music. If every family adopted similar attitudes, then we would see more successful people, generation after generation.

    Diversity is NOT skin deep. Laurence Fishburne does not have the same experiences and beliefs as, say, any similar aged black man plucked from war torn parts of South Sudan, Rwanda, or Tunisia.

    1. “If you want more black students in highly academically competitive majors or schools, then improve the quality of education available to them . . .”

      Exactly!

      And they should take their cue from Marva Collins. She was a brilliant educator who created Westside Preparatory School — a private school for low-income black children in Chicago. It is her curriculum, standards, and teaching methods that those children desperately need.

  5. Why is it, we can accept with out discussion, all animals perform on a scale, from not good enough to survive, to exceptional in the group.

    Why do we accept Micheal Jordan is a great basketball player, but refuse to acknowledge the difference in intelligence. Why doe we accept the fact Blacks are over represented in the NBA, but cannot accept blacks are under represented at MIT?

    1. iowan2 – are there any Asians playing in the NBA? I am not sure if they are represented at all.

      1. Paul, I think their are a handful. Depends how wide a net you cast to cover the term Asian.

    2. The 800 pound gorilla in the room:
      After 30 trillion in entitlements given primarily to blacks since LBJs Great Society (cluster Eff) they still can’t compete in the sciences. Sorry but the inconvenient truth is blacks as a whole have the lowest IQs on the planet!
      The Leftist Commies only embrace ‘science’ when it supports their narrative.

    3. Blacks can’t compete in the sciences.
      LBJs Great Society Catastrophe has pumped more than $28 trillion in entitlements into this Black hole no pun intended.
      The lowest eye ques on earth come from sub-Saharan Africa; sorry but it’s an inconvenient truth!

  6. Jonathan: On another subject you took the position in an earlier post (3/28) that Clarence Thomas should not have to recuse himself in cases coming out of Jan. 6. You basically restated this position in today’s USA Today–in an interview involving you, Kathleen Clark, prof. of law at Washington Univ. and Norman Eisen of Brookings. Clark and Eisen agreed that recusal was the only option for Thomas. You took a dissenting position. In part you said: “… I fail to see the clear basis for recusal…They [Ginni and Clarence] have separate professional lives. The published messages [between Ginni and Mark Meadows] represent protected speech…the sweeping recusal demands seem more opportunistic than objective…” So let’s examine your argument.

    First, while the Thomas’ have “separate professional lives” they are joined at the hip politically. Clarence was the sole dissent in the Jan. case involving Trump’s failed claim of executive privilege over WH docs. It is hard to believe Clarence was not aware of his wife’s active participation in the plot to overturn the 2020 election or that did not influence his dissenting vote. No doubt Clarence was also aware of his wife’s contacts with people inside the WH–including Mark Meadows. Clarence now knows he wife was a key figure in the Jan. 6 plot and will now doubt be called to testify before the House Jan. 6 Committee. This alone should require him to recuse himself in all cases making their way to the Court involving Jan. 6.

    When it comes to recusal you appear to be the out liar. Not only do Clark and Eisen disagree with you but so do other experts in judicial ethics. Stephen Gillers, NY University law professor and author of the leading text on judicial ethics, says the issue is a no brainer. Thomas should recuse himself. So also says Charles Geyh, legal ethics professor at Indiana University: “I don’t know how someone could be impartial when their spouse is part of the record that may be before the judge”. Richard Painter, former Bush ethics advisor, agrees with Geyh. This apparently leaves you in the minority–well except for Clarence Thomas who has gone rogue. If Thomas refuses to recuse himself in future cases involving Jan. 6 what is the remedy and how do we hold Thomas accountable? Impeachment!

    1. This long post has the stench of racism. The message: a black man cannot be trusted to make his own judgments and decisions independent of what his wife’s beliefs, and that he should be forced prophylactically to recuse because of the mere possibility that his wife might be called as witness. Shame.

  7. Neuroscience established that:
    (1) On average, women have a thicker corpus callosum connecting the two hemispheres of the brain. So thought is less lateralized in women than in men. This suggests performance differences on various tasks. Anthropologists opined that this arose so that men had superior performance at throwing things, like spears.

    At one time, at least, women showed superior scores on the so-called verbal portion of the SAT while men showed superior performance on the so-called quantitative portion. Psychologists continue to debate what significance, if any, this has.

    1. David Benson,
      “So thought is less lateralized in women than in men.”
      Is it? Wouldn’t a better verbal score indicate a tendency towards lateral thinking?

      I guess I have found your assertion to be the other way around. Maybe my sample size is too small or too quirky.

      1. Prairie Rose —- That section of the SAT is called the verbal portion. That is just what it is called, as the entire test is an entirely silent, written test with multiple choice answers.

        1. “That section of the SAT is called the verbal portion. That is just what it is called, as the entire test is an entirely silent, written test with multiple choice answers.”

          Huh? Yeah, I know. I took it. I think we are not understanding each other.

          1. That is because your corpus callosum is thicker which means you have lateral thinking. See how that works?

            SMH, big eye roll

  8. Imagine if you will that you have a child who has a childhood disease that is curable with an operation. You find out that the doctor who is going to operate never had to pass a standardized test to enter medical school and her grades were equalized to reach a more fair outcome. If your on the left or the right what would your reaction be. There are some who would say it’s alright as long as it’s your son or daughter. Look your son or your daughters face and then tell me that dumbing down the requirements is a good thing.

  9. The Constitution guarantees freedom in the “pursuit of happiness.”

    The Constitution does not guaranty failure and it does not guaranty success.

    One petitions the universe for success through the achievement of superior performance.

  10. The “diversity” claim:

    “For some time the evidence indicts [sic] there is racial and gender bias in SAT scores.”

    Here is the irrational method behind those “studies:”

    They start with an arbitrary premise: Any disparity in *outcomes* is racism.

    Then: As a group, whites score higher than do blacks.

    Ergo: Standardized tests are racist.

    That’s like arguing:

    Any disparity in gender outcomes is sexism. As a group, men park cars better than do women. Ergo, driving tests are sexism.

  11. The current standardized tests are a measure of conventional thinking and applied knowledge. Granted, it is hard to get by in life without a healthy dose of that.

    But, in the 21st century, the emphasis should be on developing unique talent. This fine-tuned individual combines conventional thinking, well-developed social skills and intelligence, and a capacity for divergent thinking, deep focus, and resilience in the face of obstacles.

    It would be a step forward to redesign the college admissions gauntlet to give a more comprehensive prediction of potential to grow unique talent and the personality skills to advance original visions.

    Evaluating divergent (creative) thinking is difficult, given that (by definition) there is no one correct answer to any such challenge.

  12. Jonathan: SAT scores are not a very good predicter of success in college or university. This is why two-thirds of colleges and universities don’t require the SAT for admission. For some time the evidence indicts there is racial and gender bias in SAT scores. The origins of SAT are particularly suspect. Princeton psychology professor Carl Brigham invented the SAT in 1923. Brigham was a eugenicist who feared that academic achievement would decline as the country became more racially diverse. He was a racist. Knowing this history, going back to the SAT as the exclusive standard for college admission is an attempt to roll back efforts to advance diversity in college admissions policies. It’s part of the overall effort to maintain white minority rule in this country. It’s sad you would join this effort.

    By the way, Kevin Nunes, one of Trump’s staunch supporters and now CEO of Trump’s “Truth Social”, is back in the news. The Court of Appeals for DC has just upheld a lower court ruling against Nunes’ defamation suit against the Washington Post. Nunes could not show “actual malice”, a standard you criticized in the Sarah Palin defamation suit in her case against the NY Times and have urged her to appeal to the Supreme Court. You suggest a “little liability” for the press would be a good thing. Since 2019 Nunes has filed 10 defamation lawsuits against the press. He has taken a page from Trump’s playbook–trying to silence the media for any unfavorable news coverage. That’s bad for freedom of the press but an effort you support. Why is it that you support “free speech” for almost everyone except the media?

    Kevin Nunes has other problems. All indications are that Trump’s “Truth Social” is a bust. As its CEO Nunes can’t seem to get the platform up and running. Even Roger Stone, one of Trump’s most loyal supporters, is complaining he can’t set up an account. And this week two high executives of “Truth Social”, Josh Adams and Bill Boozer have resigned. Adams is considered the “brains” behind the new media platform. That’s not a good sign. Nunes has a very thin skin when it comes to criticism. Anyone who might criticize Nunes can’t get an account. Trump doesn’t even use the platform and is “livid” about the failure of his attempt to provide an alternative to Twitter, Facebook, etc. That puts Nunes in the hot seat. How long Nunes will last is any one’s guess. If Trump gives him the boot where will Nunes turn to pay for all his spurious defamation lawsuits?

    1. Jonathan: SAT scores are not a very good predicter of success in college or university.

      You HAVE to document that little tidbit. In essence you are saying the educational elite, ALL with doctorates in education and other connected disciplines, have been using a measure that serves no measurable purpose.

    2. What part is biased? English is our common language, and its proper use and grammar are taught in grades 1-12. Math is, well, math. There is no racial or cultural component to 2+2=4. Ultimately the responsibility fall on the student. Either they learn the material offered, or they don’t.

    3. Dennis, you gave your opinion of racism in the SAT test itself as a fact. Almost all people on planet Earth in the 1920s would hold views deemed racist or misogynist today. Carl Brigham might have believed, at the time, that an academic placement test would screen out minorities back in the 20’s, when black schools were segregated, too few, and black illiteracy so high. Does that mean that all meritocracy, grading, and placement tests are wrong today? SAT tests are supposed to indicate the academic readiness of students. Why send students with a weak education to a university or high school that is so challenging they will drop out?

      Margaret Sanger, creator of Planned Parenthood, pushed abortion because she was a eugenicist who wanted to decrease the population growth of “undesirables.” She even gave talks to the KKK. Do you think abortion is wrong today, and if so, is it solely because Sanger was a racist eugenicist?

      If the SAT is racist, then why do Asians do so well? If it’s racist, then why do excellent black students score highly? If it’s racist, then academic preparedness shouldn’t matter at all, only skin color.

      How can a test be racist, if the exact same tests are given to everyone, regardless of race?

      I think what you might mean is that black students have notoriously lower test scores, higher dropout rate, higher truancy, and other academic indicators. High crime cities have a very difficult time attracting the best teachers, who don’t want to live and raise a family in a war zone. Tragically, Democrats’ anti-police rhetoric catastrophically increased the murder rate, which will make it even harder to get good teachers in those schools. Not all black people are the same, no more than all white people are. Meth-addicting white majority towns are not representative of all white culture. Therefore, I refer to a particular black sub culture, not all black culture, when I point out that some black communities have a rate of single motherhood in excess of 80%. Single motherhood is associated with poor offspring outcome – doing poorly in school, dropping out, doing drugs, joining a gang, committing crimes, going to prison, and/or getting murdered. The link is indisputable, and even Obama referenced it when he was in office.

      Is the goal to lower the bar, and send unqualified kids to universities, where they will either drop out, or choose fluff majors with no job potential, or is the goal to produce more academic excellence among ALL students, including black ones?

      If the goal is academic excellence, then the steps to the goal are:
      1. Get messaging out to the particular black sub culture that eschews academics and getting married
      2. Make communities safer
      3. Create a safety corridor for kids to get to and from school, and safe places to play afterward
      4. Organize Big Brothers and Sisters, and other volunteers, to tutor and mentor kids in need, regardless of skin color
      5. Keep pushing the message that the way to a better life is a quality education. A rigorous high school education alone will make for better trades.

  13. “. . . unless [the UC system] develops its own test.”

    Step One: Are you an aggrieved minority?

    Step Two: Can you fog a mirror?

    If yes to One and Two, you’re in.

    If yes just to One, you’re on conditional admit.

  14. Standardized tests are a fair measurement of a prospective student’s ability to thrive within the university’s curricula . . . but they also reflect on the school from which the  prospective student is applying. That ‘ may ‘ have had some bearing on the pressure to drop such tests, but more than likely, no admissions testing allows for ‘ greater diversity ‘ in the student body, and perhaps more gummit funding to support same ?

  15. I think it is Glenn over at insty that identified the false markers of success, vs character attributes that lead to markers of success.
    Housing. Its a marker of hard work, delayed gratification, goal setting, good decisions, sacrifice, Living within their means….All moral attributes. Leftist recoil from moral attributes and skip the foundational work and give a family a building (house) and pat themselves on their back and preen for the cameras, and never come back and see the building they gave away with zero buy in, has rapidly fell into disrepair. People that have never learned how to be responsible, can’t see they are responsible for simple cleaning and upkeep. To a leftists, its a huge surprise, but not enough of a surprise to learn from the error of their thinking.
    Its the whole teach a man to fish story….leftist work hard to ignore.

    Highschool diploma. (+25% of US graduates cant read at grade level)
    College acceptance (affirmative action, race set asides)
    College Graduation (gender studies, race based doctorates, liberal arts degrees)
    Home ownership. (see above)

    These are markers of success, but absent the character attributes that are the true markers of success. Leftist have no clue about how life works.

  16. Another fine example of the truism that “behind every apparent double standard lies an unconfessed single standard.” The lords at MIT decided that black and hispanic students could not compete on standardized testing so they threw the tests out figuring that would increase enrollments for these subgroups and consequently discriminate against Caucasian and Asian students. They found they were accepting unqualified student at every level and ethnicity and thus were setting these students up for failure. This bigotry of low expectations h as to stop. Qualified students of whatever stripe are what the country needs. Not unqualified ones or worse yet qualified ones whose accomplishments are tainted out of some notion of compassion. It’s really sentimentality masquerading as misguided compassion since all this does is lead to disappointed kids, charges of favoritism and the resentment that entails along with an overall drop in competency.

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