"Target" degrees may soon be meaningless
From today's Washington Post:
U-Va. and Harvard were among a large bloc of schools that temporarily suspended their requirements for SAT or ACT scores because the public health emergency prevented many college-bound students from taking the exams. Students could choose whether to send scores to these schools under a policy known as "test-optional."
On Friday, U-Va. President James E. Ryan said the public university will extend its test-optional policy for another two years, covering students who are now sophomores and juniors in high school....
Harvard said Friday it will be test-optional for one more year - covering those who are now high school juniors - and reiterated that those who do not submit scores "will not be disadvantaged in the application process."
UC-Berkeley has taken a more radical step. It removed the SAT and ACT from admission decisions, a policy known as "test-free" or "test-blind." A state court last fall ordered the UC system to apply that policy across all its campuses for this year's applicants. The system's approach to admission testing for coming years is still in some flux, but the UC governing board voted in the spring to phase out the SAT and ACT.
The dirty secret of elite schools is that they aren't particularly difficult. Yes, some specific majors are hard: getting a physics degree at Harvard is no joke. But most reasonably smart people could pass through an easier program and pick up the credential without much difficulty. Hint: look for a major that ends in the word "Studies".
The main reason that elite school maintain their cache is that their graduates are talented. And they're talented not because these schools have some kind of magical educational formula, but because they select smart high school kids via standardized testing.
It's hard to overstate the significance of this development. Smart kids are distributed unevenly across the population, so an admissions policy focused on high school class ranking, or even worse, extra-curriculars, at the expense of test scores will select dumber students.