Friday, August 08, 2008

A Shameful, Dishonest Development

Albright, why you gots to be like that?
Albright College will no longer require standardized testing (SAT or ACT) for students applying for admission beginning in 2009. Submission of test scores will be optional for applicants.
In a vacuum, this change might not seem very relevant. After all, if Albright can winnow an applicant pool down to a quality class using other criteria, that's good for them. I'm sure it's not impossible. However, Albright hasn't exactly established a good track record of high academic quality, and in fact had a number of scandals relating to its academics when I was an undergrad - it dropped to the fourth tier of the U.S. News and World Report rankings, had an acceptance rate one year in excess of 90%, and had a pathetically low SAT range - that last is probably setting off thousands of alarm bells already. In short, Albright has an awful academic reputation as it is.

Dropping the SAT is a laughable attempt to boost enrollment. After all, in 2000, the middle 50% of admitted students at Albright was apparently 920-1140. Yes; twenty-five percent of admitted students had a combined math and verbal score lower than 920. I'm stunned (no, not anymore, not really) that a person can graduate high school and not manage more than 920 on the SAT. That an institution awarding a bachelor's degree could not be scandalized having a quarter of its students being effectively illiterate is unthinkable. Albright is a joke.

The rationale for dropping the requirement is even more of a joke. First:
“Our extensive research confirms that there is very little correlation between test results and first-year grade-point averages or graduation rates, and that high school preparation is a much stronger predictor for student success,” said Gregory E. Eichhorn, vice president for enrollment management.
Does anyone do well in high school and score a 910 or lower? Anyone at all? From what I've seen of the quality of freshman composition at Albright, "gaggle of illiterates" is not a hyperbolic description of each incoming class. It's sort of hard to fault someone who effectively failed the SAT for not knowing how to write, because such a person is clearly unqualified for undergraduate study. It's embarrassing to the school (or ought to be) and embarrassing to alumni that Albright is accepting clearly unqualified applicants who waste their time and shockingly large sums of money struggling to understand a curriculum meant for people a full standard deviation above their level.

Now get this:
According to Eichhorn, Albright has had many students who have achieved far beyond what test scores would have predicted.
Sic! Is that the result of grade inflation, I wonder? I know anecdotal evidence doesn't cut it, but allow me - I saw an incoherent pile that wouldn't pass muster on a web forum about Pokemon receiving a passing grade - the idiot who wrote it happened to leave it lying around, clearly as baffled as I that his lunatic scribblings hadn't been met with the expected "MASSIVE FAILURE, ACADEMICALLY DISMISS IMMEDIATELY". Do professors think they're doing a service to kids by letting them slide when they haven't learned a damned thing?

“We do not want to miss out on great students. In addition, test scores do not measure creativity, motivation, intellectual engagement or potential – all things that a liberal arts college values.”
A person may have excellent intellectual potential and yet be illiterate. In fact, this is what a person scoring 460 on the SAT verbal is - illiterate. That potential can perhaps better be developed through remedial classes, not through throwing the person into college courses to struggle along "creatively" while saying nothing of substance, because, get this, you have to know how to read to get along in college. In theory.

Now, I say that almost as a concession to his position, because he's wrong. A person who does poorly on the SAT probably has a low g-factor. Sorry; he's not creative, motivated, even capable of intellectual engagement. He's not smart. This is not a moral crime, but it is a disqualifying factor for college.

Somehow, it keeps getting worse:
Albright also has a far greater diversity in its applicant pool and on campus – both ethnically and socio-economically – than most private liberal arts colleges, with students of color making up 20 percent of the incoming class.
What about intellectual diversity? 5 Cartesians for every 4 Humeans? Right; you, and 99.46 percent of students, faculty, and administration at Albright, have no idea what I'm talking about.

Has this man considered that perhaps...I know, this is dangerous even to think...academic quality and "ethnic" or "socioeconomic" diversity are inversely related?

Well, yes! He has. And rejected it:
“Standardized tests demonstrate a bias that tends to disadvantage a large portion of our applicant pool and this policy change supports our commitment to a diverse community of learners,” said Eichhorn.

Well, Mr. Eichhorn, you've made your choice. You can have a faux-diverse student body or you can have an intellectually capable one. You have chosen...poorly.
In reviewing applicants, Albright’s admission process has historically placed very little emphasis on standardized test results, relying more heavily on high school preparation and assessment of each individual’s educational potential.
And it shows. Because this method of narrowing the pool produced numbers that looked bad in the rankings, Albright has now chosen to mask the poor quality of its students behind inherently fuzzier measures of achievement. It's a shell game.

Recall that the SAT was recently dumbed down. On the heels of this, Albright has decided that even requiring students to take the baby SAT is too much. Disgusting.

A final note - I've ranted about Albright's failure to prepare students for graduate study. This new development will make the situation worse. If a graduate school will even touch an Albright alumnus's application anymore, a lot of remedial work will have to be done to close the gap between an Albright education and a real education.

Hey, at least Hank Zimon isn't ruining our reputation anymore, right, Albright?

You people are fools.


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