News From Washington

Administration April 2024 PREMIUM

The resurgence of SATs in college admissions signifies a shift from their previous criticism to acceptance, driven by claims of predictability for minority students' success. However, debates persist over educational equity. Meanwhile, Hispanic political representation grows, with diverse views shaping the electorate, potentially influencing the 2024 election landscape.

They’re Back!  The SATs are being required again

The SATs – the required Standard Academic Tests that for decades were the “American Way” for college applicants to compete for admissions into universities across the United States, are making a comeback. In the past decade, they went from being highly respected to maligned as discriminatory against low-income students to now swinging back into acceptance by top U.S. institutions of higher education. They are more flexible now, and they are deemed “not racist” by educational experts. “The SATs have been proved to be especially good at predicting college performance for black and other minority students,” according to the Washington Post’s lead editorial on Feb. 28.

Many education counselors ten years ago voiced the  opinion that the SATs had become a profit-driven industry with study materials, tutoring, certificates, and the like driving up the costs and chances of success- especially during and after the COVID pandemic. The movement to end SAT testing got an additional boost from the justice and DEI ideologues who attributed gaps in the scores of the majority of White and Asian students compared to Blacks and some Latinos, to  test bias. “The wave of schools letting go of the SAT after 2020 seemed to many like an acceleration of social justice long overdue,” wrote columnist John McWhorter of the New York Times. However, studies from  Harvard have shown that even profound vocabulary gaps exist among children of different economic levels and family circumstances before they even enter kindergarten and, for many, they only widen after that. “Scrapping the test isn’t going to make those gaps disappear,” according to a U.S. Department of Education study.  

As of this writing, Brown University is the latest to reinstate at least the SAT as a preferred admissions application option, following Yale, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, Georgetown University, and others. Unfortunately, the decisions to drop and then return to SATs seem to have gotten intertwined with the waves of support and rejection of various movements that seek examples of racism as reasons for educational gaps among various groups of students. Scholars at one conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, had a harsher reason for the leap to eliminate SATs at many Ivy League schools: “rash and dumb decisions,” according to Jay Greene.

DEI Freezes Out Great Potential Community College Teachers/ Doers 

Stories of an unintended harm of DEI – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – are being revealed especially at American community colleges -- that unique American Institution of Higher Ed that is the model of diversity, where students can come from all ages, stages, backgrounds and educational ambitions. But DEI has hurt the recruitment of the other uniqueness of community colleges: professors who not only are dedicated to teaching but also practice  the professions and technical skills that are taught at these mostly applied-arts colleges. The villain is the “diversity statement” that demands potential professors address the question “How do you deal with diversity in your classroom?” and attach the answer to their  application. The statement has become a top priority for recruiters, and if the applicant does not use the right terms, applications are thrown out, no matter what experience the applicant has. “It seems that diversity statements are being used as ideological filters,” one professor told the New York Times.        

National Attention on Hispanics: The Good/the Problematic/the Voters

The Capitol Hill spotlight has focused on Hispanics these days – but no one is talking about identity politics. Hispanic office holders are found across the political spectrum on the Hill: in the Senate, the House, the President’s cabinet, the Supreme Court, much of the press and many of the think tanks along Capitol Hill. Men, women, youths, seniors, middle-agers -- many Hispanics on the Hill are experiencing rising reputations and visibility. There is Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education, who have survived the political ups and downs of cabinet politics and could be looking at holding those positions if President Biden wins another term.  

Then there is  the more controversial: Alejandro Mayorkas, the embattled Secretary of Homeland Security, who has been very cool under consistent fire. He claims his agency is doing its  best at the border with the few resources they have – a set up for President Biden to carry out  another executive order and take money from wherever he can to pay for increased support for enforcement and detention. But Mayorkas got impeached by the Republican dominated House for letting more than 8 million migrants cross the border illegally under his watch and allowing most to stay to try to get job permits; the Democratic-dominated Senate wouldn’t even take up the impeachment case that could have led to the Secretary’s being asked to leave as they are reluctant to punish a man who is just doing the job his boss (the President of the U.S.) has demanded of him. Mayorkas has come out of the fire honorably. However, this is not so with Senator  Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who is accused of serious obstruction of justice and bribery charges that normally might have led to his removal or resignation. But Menendez denies the charges, and the Democrat’s margins in the Senate are too thin to risk, so Menendez stays on while facing challenges in the July primaries. Republicans hope to flip the seat.   

Then there is the quietest but perhaps the most powerful Hispanic legislator of all, at least for the moment. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) is a Congressman from a southern district in Texas. One of the only moderate Blue Dog Democrats left in the House and a former leader of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Cuellar potentially holds the keys to the immigration solution in his hand. He supports stricter enforcement along the border; his legislative proposals seek cooperative solutions with Republicans in the House and the Senate, and they are garnering respect. Immigration is the number one issue and Cuellar might be the key to saving the presidency for the Democrats.

All this is to say that the Hispanic vote, while increasingly monitored, may well be going the way of the “German American” vote of 100 years ago – numerous and highly  diverse across the political spectrum. That means they are conservatives as well as liberals, Biden supporters, Independents, Trumpers (including a heavily tattooed group of young men from Tampa, Florida at CPAC in March with  T-shirts reading “Trump’s Latinos”) and never-Trumpers, Republicans, and Democrats. Hispanic voters are into it all. Pollsters are on hourly watch for the shifts in the “Hispanic vote” that could determine the outcome of the 2024 election up and down the ballot.

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