Grades, scores or character?

Less than four percent of students are black or Hispanic at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a public magnet school in Virginia.  Forty-six percent of students are Asian-American. TJ’s admissions committee should consider character as well as brains, writes Jay Mathews in the Washington Post.

Last year, the school says, 52 Hispanics and 29 blacks reached the semifinal round of admissions, based on their academic records. But only 13 Hispanics and four blacks were enrolled.

The ability to benefit from the school’s imaginative teaching is not the main criterion for the admission people, I suspect. Like the rest of us, they are impressed by test scores.

Many highly selective high schools are predominantly Asian-American, Mathews writes. Asian immigrant parents push their children to excel academically, especially in science and math. When TJ looks for students with a “passion” for science and math — and high test scores and grades –  it finds many Asian-American students.

The school’s administrators, teachers and counselors have formed a Diversity and Engagement Curriculum Team to recruit more blacks and Hispanics.

“Success in America stems more from character than test-taking ability,” Mathews writes. “We can tell which Jefferson applicants show signs of the determination and grace that produce great lives” by talking to their middle-school teachers.

Many of the most promising ones will be black and Hispanic. Give more of them a chance, and Jefferson will not only be a more interesting school to attend, but more reflective of the values we want all of our kids to have.

Do blacks and Hispanic students have more “character” than Asian-American students? They’ve probably dealt with more adversity. But most of those Asian kids are exceptionally determined people; many have overcome language and cultural challenges. I’d bet their middle-school teachers love them.

Diversity arguments for discriminating on the basis of race and ethnicity are incoherent, argues John Rosenberg on Discriminations. “If Mathews’ suggestions for TJ were adopted perhaps its name should be changed to The Thomas Jefferson High School For Interested, Determined, Graceful Students Of Good Character. The school would probably still be good … but it wouldn’t be TJ.”

Color counts

Work, study, get rejected for medical school: Discriminations posts Association of American Medical Colleges’ data for med school applicants from 2005 to 2007.

1. An Asian American with a GPA of 2.8 to 2.99 and a MCAT score of 36 to 38 has a 36.8% chance of being admitted to a U.S. medical school.

2. A White with a GPA of 2.8 to 2.99 and a MCAT score of 36 to 38 has a 40.7% chance of being admitted to a U.S. medical school.

3. An African American with a GPA of 2.8 to 2.99 and a MCAT score of 36 to 38 has a 100% chance of being admitted to a U.S. medical school.

Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., now summering on Martha’s Vineyard, opposes race-based affirmative action, Discriminations notes. Affirmative action served as a “class escalator” for some black people, who now use it to perpetuate their status, Gates told the Vineyard Gazette.

“I think we need a class-based affirmative action. I grew up in the hills of West Virginia with poor white people and I can testify from my own experience the culture of poverty is color-blind,” Professor Gates said.

Many of those rejected Asian-American applicants grew up in struggling immigrant families, but they weren’t raised in a culture of poverty.

Update: Readers point out that the AAMC data show only one black applicant with a 2.8-2.99 GPA in the 36-38 MCAT range. However, 100 percent of the 44 black applicants with grades of 3.2-4.0 were accepted, while acceptance rates ranged from 64.1 percent to 94.2 percent for Asians with the same scores and GPAs above 3.2.

I also looked at a larger category:  Applicants with grades from 3.0 to 4.0 and scores in the 27 to 29 range, Wikipedia says 28.1 is the median score. Asians with 3.8 to 4.0 grades had a 72 percent acceptance rate, compared to 76 percent for whites and 95.9 percent for blacks.  At 3.6 to 3.79, the rate was 56.7 percent for Asians, 60.8 percent for whites and 92.1 percent for blacks. At 3.4 to 3.59, 42.9 percent of Asians, 45.8 percent of whites and 90 percent of blacks were admitted. 3.2 to 3.39: 27.3 percent Asian, 31.8 percent white, 83.6 percent black. 3.0 to 3.19: 15.6 percent Asian, 23 percent white, 76.3 percent black admitted.

I think it’s fair to say that Asian-American medical school applicants are held to slightly higher standards than whites and much higher standards than blacks.