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"The Geography of Privilege"

In this piece, Peter responds to the published criticisms by the Chairman of the University of California Board of Regents (John Moores) that students with SAT I scores below 1000 had no business going to Berkeley because they were not only "marginally academically qualified" and because they took the places of students with SATs above 1500.

Sacks sees Moores's comments as an attack on the UC admissions policy that evaluates a full range of factors in admissions decisions, not just test scores and grades. He points out that the low scoring students were largely minorities and that their admission to UC amounts to a challenge to " virtual admissions entitlement" for upper-middle class students. In his analysis Sacks describes the social background of standardized testing and suggests that the tests became educational gatekeepers precisely because students from affluent and highly educated families tended to do well on them. And indeed, as long as test scores alone determined admission to UC, minorities and the less affluent had a difficult time being accepted.

But Sacks goes further and points out that research indicates that standardized tests simply do not predict later academic achievement very well. Indeed, an internal UC report showed that "the predictive power of high school grades actually improved after family income and education were factored in, while the predictive power of SAT I scores declined sharply when socio-economic factors were considered."

Sacks concludes with a discussion of the benefits of a more inclusive admissions process for the residents of the state, to say nothing of the potential legal difficulties that would be encountered if comprehensive review were abandoned.

"As most progressive policymakers in public higher education are beginning to understand, the alternative to comprehensive review, or something akin to it, is to permit high-speed computers to do the work of admissions professionals. It's a neat and tidy world in which young people are easily categorized and sorted by a numerical index of their SAT scores and GPAs."