In the News

These SC colleges don’t require SAT, ACT scores for admission. Here’s why, Ariel Gilreath (The Greenville News)

Gatekeepers of college education

Paul Thomas, a professor of education at Furman University and educator for 36 years, said that although creators of standardized tests have been working against bias for decades, they are still biased.

“There’s quite a lot of body of research that standardized tests are far more strongly correlated with out-of-school factors than they are to in-school factors,” Thomas said. “Standardized tests are a stronger reflection of factors beyond a child’s control than they are of a child’s ability.”

Among Thomas’ critiques of using standardized tests like the SAT are flaws that other critics have pointed out — that some students are bad test-takers, that poorer students are less likely to have access to test preparation materials and tutors, that the outcome of a high-stakes test could be determined on whether the student slept well the night before.

“The SAT is one data point from one time period. GPA is dozens of data points over years,” Thomas said. “GPA is a single number that is a richer data point.”

But Thomas’ biggest critique of the SAT and ACT is their use as gatekeepers for college education.

“The SAT and ACT are gatekeepers that are not good data for student ability, and they’re not good data for who deserves to go to college,” Thomas said.

The weight of SAT and ACT scores in admissions decisions also make it an easy target for misuse — a test administrator in Los Angeles was central to a lucrative scheme discovered earlier this year where student scores were fixed by a tutor who took the test for them or corrected their incorrect answers.

While the number of test-optional schools in the country are rising, Thomas said the path to reducing standardized testing in education is a difficult one — annual standardized scores are widely published and often used to rank state education systems and even individual schools.

“The SAT and the ACT are very powerful. These are organizations that generate a huge amount of money,” Thomas said. “Americans believe in this stuff.”

Swastikas and ‘sexually explicit’ graffiti found at Furman University dorm, Ariel Gilreath (The Greenville News)

Paul Thomas, a professor of education at the school, said in an email to his students that the graffiti was “neither funny nor inconsequential.”

“Where you live these four years and where you learn, I think, are sacred spaces – and while no one can promise these spaces will be perfect, we must all work diligently to insure they are safe and inclusive,” Thomas said in the statement.