Standardized tests “confirm the legitimacy of high GPAs”…

So says a pre-law prof at at “working class” university”.
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I’ve always been a fan of standardized testing, so a recent WSJ op-ed caught my eye.

The author was reacting to reports that “the American Bar Association, which accredits law schools, is considering a proposal to abandon its requirement that applicants take a “valid and reliable admissions test.”

His summary conclusion: bad idea.

For context, he points out that:

The Law School Admissions Council, which designs and administers the LSAT, has demonstrated through extensive research that “the LSAT is the single best predictor of law school success.”

That’s good, he argues because:

Objective measures of ability give working-class students a shot at going to a top law school.

How?

By leveling the playing fields between undergraduates attending “working class schools” and those fortunate enough to attend “good schools” (i.e. selective private universities) whose “brand identity” and its “halo effect” boosts applicants’ standing in the admissions process.

He argues that a “valid and reliable admissions test” allows working class students to demonstrate that they are as bright and capable of doing well in law school as students from privileged backgrounds.

In effect, the standardize tests confirm the legitimacy of GPAs … potentially boosting the standing of qualified applicants from lesser ranked schools … while filtering out lesser qualified applicants who accrue “face credibility” simply by attending brand name schools … or, schools that have succumbed to the grade inflation virus.

So, the author opines that the standardized tests can help law schools construct more qualified and more diverse student bodies.

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My take

While the article was focused on the LSAT and law schools, I think that its conclusions apply more generally.

It’s commonly agreed that grade inflation has been rampant in high schools and colleges … and that the trend accelerated during the pandemic.

Studies are consistently showing that teachers were tossing around high grades like penny candies during the pandemic … in part because of the challenge evaluating students in a remote learning environment … and, in part, to claim legitimacy for remote teaching.

The ranks of honor roll and straight-A students swelled during the pandemic.

Standardized testing is a way to determine whether the higher grades better performance and more learning …  or simply grade inflation.

If grades are going up, but standardized test scores are going down, that’s a red flag.

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