Filling in all the pieces of SAT equity puzzle

High scores on SATs and ACTs help more selective colleges identify high-achieving underrepresented students.
By: | February 16, 2021

Colleges didn’t just use SATs and ACTs to gauge applicants’ academic abilities. The exams also provided lists of students to whom admissions officers can send recruiting materials, ”says Morgan Polikoff, an associate professor of education at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education.

From this perspective, cancelling the tests could actually disadvantage some students, Polikoff says.

“I wonder how some kids will find out about college, particularly less resourced kids or kids in schools where there are fewer counselors,” he says. “We’d still have to make sure kids who are college eligible have access to quality information.”

Also, high scores on SATs and ACTs can help more selective colleges identify high-achieving underrepresented students.

Ultimately, even eliminating the SATs and ACTs would have a marginal impact on making college access more equitable.

Ample research, for example, has also shown that Black, brown and less-wealthy students are tracked into lower-level courses, Polikoff says.

“I hope this is part of a broader agenda to try to improve systems and structures that contribute to inequities,” he says. “Standardized tests do contribute on the margins to inequities. All the other systems and structures do as well, and I hope we’re continuing to interrogate those.”

Read the main feature in our “Shifting” SAT series: How SAT shifts will impact college access and equity