Coaches urge no SAT tests for athletes. Scores now are low as 400 out of 1600!

What’s the easiest way to contract coronavirus – playing basketball with bare arms and legs, sweating, jumping into an opponent, or taking a test seated ten feet from others, wearing a mask, and with everyone supervised to prevent conversation or contact?

Basketball – complicated, challenging!

The answer – basketball is safe, and intelligence tests are not, according to The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The tests in question are the SAT and ACT, which measure how you calculate, comprehend and conclude – all qualities necessary for success in higher education, but derided by athletic directors and basketball coaches as too difficult, unfair, even the R Word – “racist!”

This year the NCAA decided no athlete would be required to take these tests in order to qualify for scholarships in Division I or II. Applicants will only need a 2.3 average in the top ten of their NCAA-approved high school courses, 9th through 11th grades. Three of the ten do not have to be in science, math or English.

This compares to most high schools, which still require a minimum GPA of 2.0 in all majors to compete as an athlete. To reduce standards, some public schools have recently lowered or eliminated any grade point average minimum. Boston and Pittsburgh are big city examples.

Under NCAA rules all student marks are rounded up or down, so an athlete could score marks of 71 (2.0) in seven classes, 76 (3.0) in three classes, and qualify for college entrance with a 2.3.. Their actual grade score would be 72.3, nearly a D (1.0) average. Advanced or special classes could earn an extra 1.0 above the normal grade, making a 76 into an 86, rounded up to 90 or an A (4.0).

It sounds difficult to calculate, but in practice high schools want their athletes to succeed and give the benefit of the doubt in marking, knowing that colleges have GPA admission standards.

Frank Martin, USC

Enter the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), which is not happy with just no SAT or ACT this year, but wants them banned permanently. The reason?  You guessed it – “longstanding forces of institutional racism” in the tests, the group noted in a statement.

The group’s committee, chaired by South Carolina coach Frank Martin and highly-regarded Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, reported the tests “no longer have a place in intercollegiate athletics or education at large.”

The elimination of the tests, they said, would be “an important step towards combating educational inequality.”

“I am proud of the continued efforts of the Committee on Racial Reconciliation, and look forward to engaging further with the NCAA on this crucial topic,” NABC executive director and ex Oregon State coach, Craig Robinson said.

We feel it is prudent for college athletics to address a standardized test structure that has long had disproportionately negative impacts on low-income and minority students.

This committee also recommended that students must take “black history” courses in high school to be eligible for college sports.

H. T. Amaker, Harvard

Martin and Amaker said the SAT and ACT tests are ”used to enforce power systems.”

Let’s reflect on that last claim, because it is the major reason that many oppose the use of these tests.

The SAT, for example, has been revised many times, responding to criticism that some racial groups do not score as well as others. One claim is that SAT scores are influenced by favoring the white race over minorities – implausible since the highest scores are from Asian students, and many black and hispanic students manage perfect scores of 1600.

A more reasonable explanation of many scoring poorly is their high school education. Most city schools allow absenteeism, tolerate inept educators, and don’t prepare their students for even a menial job, let alone college.

Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Philadelphia, has an excellent athletic program and its students come from a lower middle-class Black community adjacent the suburbs. The school’s student/teacher ratio is an outstanding 12-1.

Unfortunately, the school, a STEM magnet, gets failing grades, and the average graduate would seem doomed in college.

  • 80% of King students are chronically absent
  • 29% have been suspended for violations
  • 44% do not graduate
  • Ranks 681 out of 688 high schools in Pennsylvania

Above are the Pennsylvania King High proficiency results – Biology and Algebra results are too low to assign a percentage.

Contrast that with Central, another public high school in the same city, which I graduated in 1959.

Student population at Central High is diverse, and like King High, some 100% qualify for free or subsidized lunches. Racial makeup is: Asian (38.6%), White (26.4%), African American (20.8%). The student/teacher ratio  is 24-1.Some 42 high schools in the Philadelphia City School District have better student/teacher ratios.

This coed, generally poor city school of diverse students, has managed to rank between 1st and 3d out 688 Pennsylvania schools since 2003 in surveys, boasting an average SAT of 1229 and 100% proficiency in all Keystone tests.

The conclusion – an excellent school can produce excellent test scores, regardless of race, sex or income.

But, while King may not compete with Central in SAT scores, it is in another world, when compared to the NCAA 400 minimum. How low is that 400 total? Examine this chart of the percentage rating of SAT scores:

SAT Composite Score Range Percentile Score
1550-1600 99+
1500-1550 98 to 99+
1450-1500 96 to 98
1400-1450 94 to 96
1350-1400 91 to 94
1300-1350 86 to 91
1250-1300 81 to 86
1200-1250 74 to 81
1150-1200 67 to 74
1100-1150 58 to 67
1050-1100 49 to 58
1000-1050 40 to 49
950-1000 31 to 40
900-950 23 to 31
850-900 16 to 23
800-850 10 to 16
750-800 5 to 10
700-750 2 to 5
650-700 1 to 2
600-650 1- to 1
550-600 1-
500-550 1-
450-500 1-
400-450 1-

Any score of 650 or less places you in the bottom 1% of test takers, so 400 is pitiful.  King’s 768 is in the bottom 5% to 10% of those tested.

It’s time to rethink the future of student athletes. For those ready to attend college, the NCAA admission requirements should be increased to match what other students must demonstrate for academic admission..

For those who have insufficient qualifications for graduating with real courses, they should be paid a salary for contributing to the athletic profit center, and allowed to take courses or not, and accepting or ignoring grading.

Without that change, we will just continue the hypocrisy that says everyone is a qualified student-athlete, placing an undue intellectual burden on many excellent sports competitors.

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