Friday, October 17, 2008

Merit is More than Numbers

By Jose J. Soto and Deborah Waire Post

Most people think of affirmative action in the context of access to education. Whether we call it affirmative action or diversity, there is a widely shared belief that any process that considers race or gender in evaluating an application for admission is unfair. Actually, the reverse is true.

Those of us who support affirmative action also oppose an admissions policy that relies exclusively on numbers because we believe that a person is more than a number. Schools and testing agencies promote the use of test scores or an index created from the grade point average and the test scores to decide who is in and who is out. In the rarified world of psychometricians, a point difference on a test score may be meaningless, but in the imaginations of parents and students, "fair" means who are "first" or who has the highest number. What most parents do not know is that the game is rigged. Just as an “A” in an honors English class is worth more than an “A” in a regular English class, an “A” from an elite school is worth more than an “A” from a school farther down the educational pecking order.

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