[guest post by Dana]
Three 16-year old students from Arcadia, California scored perfect scores on the SAT. It should then follow that that the scores of Hanah Lee, Jeffrey Wang and Titus Wu, combined with stellar academic records and resumes of well-rounded extra-curricular activities would qualify this group to attend any college of their choice. Think again:
In a windowless classroom at an Arcadia tutoring center, parents crammed into child-sized desks and dug through their pockets and purses for pens as Ann Lee launches a PowerPoint presentation.
Her primer on college admissions begins with the basics: application deadlines, the relative virtues of the SAT versus the ACT and how many Advanced Placement tests to take.
Then she eases into a potentially incendiary topic — one that many counselors like her have learned they cannot avoid.
“Let’s talk about Asians,” she says.
Lee then points out the discriminatory system in play:
Lee’s next slide shows three columns of numbers from a Princeton University study that tried to measure how race and ethnicity affect admissions by using SAT scores as a benchmark. It uses the term “bonus” to describe how many extra SAT points an applicant’s race is worth. She points to the first column.
African Americans received a “bonus” of 230 points, Lee says.
She points to the second column.
“Hispanics received a bonus of 185 points.”
The last column draws gasps.
Asian Americans, Lee says, are penalized by 50 points — in other words, they had to do that much better to win admission.
“Do Asians need higher test scores? Is it harder for Asians to get into college? The answer is yes,” Lee says.
Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Nonetheless, when excellence is rewarded less than skin color, it’s tough not to ask what the point is in doing all the hard work in the first place. And if a student needs such a big bump of bonus points just to get in the door, what happens when that student is faced with the challenging academics and rigorous demands of a four-year college? Are there more bonus points allotted if the preferred student starts to fail? Or is he allotted a few points and a tutor – maybe a tutor who scored 2400 on his SAT and knows the material of study inside and out because he is fully committed to his own academic success, worked incredibly hard to get through the door on his own merits, and is completely up to the challenge of an education that he values above all else?