Many schools and school systems including the University of California, have begun to phase out the SAT and ACT from their college admissions processes. The goal of this is to reduce socioeconomic disparities. And yes, it’s true that students with higher socioeconomic statuses generally score higher on those tests. However, getting rid of the test doesn’t solve socioeconomic disparities by a long shot, and it introduces new problems too. I believe that the SAT should remain a core part of college admissions everywhere.
Firstly, socioeconomic disparities are everywhere. Low-SES (socioeconomic status) children enter high school with a literacy rate five years behind high-income students and have worse cognitive development in most other areas. They also drop out of high school more than four times more than high-income students. There is also a gap of over 0.4 standard deviations in non-cognitive skills. They are also more likely to exhibit learned helplessness and a passive, uninterested attitude towards the school system. This takes hold as early as 1st grade. Lower SES students also tend to have more depressive symptoms than those with higher SES. They also, of course, earn lower grades.
So, getting rid of test scores in college admissions doesn’t solve the problem of socioeconomic disparities. But it still helps a bit, right, so why should we keep it? Well, the answer is that it doesn’t help, and even if it did keeping the SAT around has lots of benefits as well. Why doesn’t it help? Well, consider two students with 4.0 GPAs. One of them cannot be accepted. Without the SAT, how do you decide which one gets accepted? Perhaps through extracurricular activities? These are also heavily influenced by SES for multiple reasons, mainly because many extracurriculars will be harder to access for lower SES families. And then, the SAT would not only make no difference one way or the other to SES disparities, but it will also help make college admissions fairer and give colleges more factors to consider when accepting and rejecting students.
So, two things are clear. Firstly, that socioeconomic disparities are everywhere and need to be addressed immediately and powerfully. Secondly, removing the SAT is not a valid way of addressing them by a long shot, and in fact remains an important part of the college admissions process that brings great benefits if it stays.