Peter Sacks, Author and Speaker

"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."

Books and Essays by Peter Sacks

Why conservatives should stop listening to anti-government critics on higher education.
Academe Magazine, American Association of University Professors
Essays and Commentary
From the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 12, 2007
Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice
From the Chronicle Review (Chronicle of Higher Education, July 25, 2003.
Review essay in The Nation, May 5, 2003.
Essay appears in the Spring 2003 issue of Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice
From the Jan. 8, 2003, issue of Education Week
Review essay of In Schools We Trust by Deborah Meier in The Nation, Nov. 18, 2002.
A review essay on the book, Fair Game?, by Rebecca Zwick for The Nation.
The Boston Review, December/January 2001
The Chronicle of Higher Education (Chronicle Review), June 8, 2001.
The School Administrator, Dec. 2000
While we often hear about the growing economic divide between the rich and the poor in America, Tearing Down the Gates locates the fountainhead of these growing economic disparities, our education system, and shows how the widening class divide results in an untold loss of human talent that will derail the American Dream --not just for some, but for us all.
A critical examination of America's 'testing culture' in schools, higher education, and the workplace, and how the American meritocracy can be more fair for all citizens.
An inquiry into "postmodern" American culture and its sometimes corrosive effects on qualilty in higher education.