The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced Monday that it will again require applicants to submit an SAT or ACT score. It had paused the requirement during the pandemic, as did the vast majority of colleges, citing difficulties for students in completing the testing.
In announcing the reinstatement, MIT distinguished itself, as more than two-thirds of universities in the U.S. have elected to extend their pandemic-related testing pauses or do away with a testing requirement altogether — often in the name of racial and economic diversity. Testing, these schools claimed, created barriers to African American students and certain other rational minorities as well as lower-income students.
In October 2020, critical race theorist extraordinaire Ibram X. Kendi summarized these sentiments when he said, “Standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black and Brown minds and legally exclude their bodies from prestigious schools.”
“We still think there’s something wrong with the kids,” he said, “rather than recognizing there’s something wrong with the tests.”
The California State University system announced last week that it will not even consider the test at all. “This decision aligns with the California State University’s continued efforts to level the playing field and provide greater access to a high-quality college degree for students from all backgrounds,” said Acting California State University Chancellor Steve Relyea in announcing the decision. When a California State University panel recommended eliminating the tests in January, April Grommo, the assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management services, said the recommendation was made “with a focus on equity.”
MIT’s announcement threw cold water on the claim that standardized testing makes admissions less equitable. In fact, the school argued the opposite, with Stu Schmill, the dean of admissions, saying, “We believe a [testing] requirement is more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy.”
Schmill explained that not requiring testing actually “tends to
The research he used to back up this claim came from a study conducted by the University of California’s Standardized Testing Task Force. That comprehensive study — which evidently the University of California system has elected to ignore — found that the tests helped admissions officers to identify students from less-advantaged backgrounds who could be successful. The test was the best predictive measure of any admissions component, even more so than GPA, it found. The study noted that grade inflation is more prevalent at wealthy schools.
While other schools are racing to do away with an effective and less-biased predictive measure of academic success in the name of equity, MIT has stood up and followed the data, which has been repeated in a multitude of studies.
Standardized testing is the fairest way to measure a student’s potential while controlling for economic advantage. MIT’s example should inspire other schools to use testing to give prepared students from marginalized backgrounds the opportunity to show their promise.
Most schools, unfortunately, are ignoring the data so they can pick and choose the exact racial composition of their student body — and not selecting the students with the most potential for success.