Editorial: Emphasis on higher test scores won’t help diversity


Via Dirk Shadd | Tampa Bay Times, TNS

High school GPAs and test scores don’t always accurately reflect intelligence of a student.

This year’s incoming class is already breaking records. Pitt’s class of 2023 will be one of the most ethnically diverse groups of students in the University’s history, as well as the group with some of the highest standardized test scores.

While the higher level of diversity is encouraging, the higher test scores are not as beneficial to the University as they might seem. It’s the goal of any institution of higher learning to collect the best and brightest amongst their pools of applicants, but focusing on standardized test scores isn’t necessarily the best way to do so. Since test scores aren’t the only measure of a person’s intelligence, depending on them can stall Pitt’s efforts to diversify.

During the June meeting of Pitt’s Board of Trustees, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher noted the composition of the incoming first-year class.

“As we draw less from Pennsylvania, more from the rest of the country, we’re starting to look more like the rest of the country,” he said. “Once again, we are likely to welcome one of the most racially, ethnically diverse classes on record for the University of Pittsburgh.”

Statistics from the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid show that about 28% of students in the class of 2023 identify as American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian, black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander or two or more races. Fourteen percent of students are from underrepresented minority groups — a record number.

These are positive statistics for Pitt. However, another remark Gallagher made at the same board meeting should provoke some hesitation.

“We’re seeing an incredibly accomplished class of young people coming in who, once again, will best our topline numbers in all the academic achievement areas like GPA and test scores,” he said.

The middle 50% of the incoming class’ high school GPAs run as high as 4.31 and 4.44. Grades and test scores can be a good gauge for intellectual intelligence, but not for everyone. Many students show intelligence in ways that can’t be or aren’t accurately measured by testing, like those with more creative intelligence whose unorthodox problem-solving skills don’t fit within the rigid structure of standardized tests. Higher test scores don’t necessarily indicate smarter, more driven individuals, and setting a higher standard for these scores can shut out many applicants who would be valuable assets to the University.

A greater focus on test scores can also contribute to lower levels of diversity. According to a study released this year by Georgetown University, if universities were to admit only prospective students with the highest test scores, the student body would become much more affluent and much less diverse.

Gallagher’s remarks were meant to praise the University on its latest incoming class. The fact that it’s one of the highest-scoring classes we’ve seen in a long time isn’t a bad thing, but going forward we should be careful with how we think about the importance of test scores and GPAs in deciding who gets accepted to Pitt. Placing increased importance on those two criteria could ultimately bring our rising diversity numbers down.