Let’s revisit our September discussion over the (infamous) claim that the mission of Williams is to be the best college in the world and that being the best college requires admitting (and enrolling) more of the best students. Professor Shawn Rosenheim wrote a letter to the editor in response. Day 3 of my 3-day reply.

I don’t know whether my students had SAT scores of 600, 700 or 800. I never had reason to look. I do know that, for myself and many of my colleagues, SHSS has reaffirmed our sense of why teaching matters.

Kane would do well to pause before prescribing further aggressive changes to admissions policies. I welcome him to sit in on any of my courses, and to see for himself whether those changes would damage or improve the college that we both love.

EphBlog loves nothing more than to educate the Williams faculty. If Rosenheim really can’t tell the difference between students who scored 600 or 800 on the verbal SAT, then he is fooling himself. Consider these three graduates from the class of 2017.

Ariel Chu, Highest Honors in English and Magna Cum Laude
Apurva Tandon, Highest Honors in English
Chelsea Rose Thomeer, English, Highest Honors and Magna Cum Laude

You can be (almost) certain that all three scored very highly on the verbal SAT because it is, for most practical purposes, impossible to do as well as Chu/Tandon/Thomeer have done without high verbal fluency, precisely what the SAT measures so well. If you don’t have that ability by 17 — if you score, say, 600 on the verbal SAT — there is little/nothing that Williams can do that will allow you to catch up with your classmates.

There were 62 English majors in the class of 2017. Imagine that the Williams English Department sat down and grouped them into quintiles, looking not just at their simple class ranks, but at their grades in English courses, the quality of their papers, the insight from their comments in class. The top quintile (top 12) would consist (almost?) solely of students with SAT verbals scores of 700+, perhaps even 750+. In the bottom quintile, we would have a similar over-representation of students with verbal scores below 700, even below 600.

Of course, none of these facts mean that Rosenheim or his colleagues should teach or grade any differently. When I grade a paper, I don’t care what a students SAT score was. (All the more so because I grade anonymously.) But, to the extent that Rosenheim doesn’t really understand the connection between SAT score and performance in his classes, I am happy to educate him.

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