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Responding to SCOTUS Ruling on Race Conscious Admissions, and NWEA Charts Ongoing Learning Losses

How to Address SCOTUS Decision on Race Conscious Admissions?

Last week’s Supreme Court decisions on Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard and SFFA v. UNC threaten a serious decline in the enrollment of students of color in elite institutions of higher education. States like California, Florida, and Texas that have already banned race-conscious admissions (RCA) have seen a substantial drop-off in Black and Hispanic higher education enrollment.

In response to the SFFA decision, Education Reform Now released a new report last week, exploring various proactive policy responses, such as: combatting misinformation that could have a chilling effect on lawful admissions strategies; monitoring racially disaggregated data on application vs. enrollment rates; amping up programs like dual enrollment and advanced placement that increase college preparedness; and encouraging race-conscious recruitment practices (as opposed to focusing only on admissions). Read it here.

Another promising response is the banning of legacy preferences, which effectively favors white and affluent children of alumni and disadvantages students of color. On that issue, three groups are already suing Harvard University in the wake of the SFFA decision. In 2021, Colorado became the first state to ban the practice at all universities. Our state affiliate, ERN CT, also worked with Connecticut’s Joint Committee on Higher Education to tackle legacy in 2022. Although that bill ultimately did not pass, facing stiff opposition from private colleges and UConn in particular, it generated significant media attention as it moved through the legislative process. (See e.g.: CT Post, Hartford Courant, The Day.) In public testimony, Terrence Cheng, Chancellor of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, reported that the state’s public universities were no longer utilizing the discriminatory practice. In sharp contrast, UConn’s VP for Enrollment, Nathan Fuerst, testified that, even though CT’s flagship university did not honor legacy admissions, a ban could create a “slippery slope of additional legislation over the years that would govern admissions.” And Jeremiah Quinlan, Dean of Admissions at Yale, fiercely defended legacy admissions as being among the factors that “defines a campus community and culture.” But for whom?

With the new SFFA ruling, the tides may finally be turning. Over the weekend, The New Haven Register reported that Yale will be examining its admissions process over the summer. Last week, the Yale College Council (in a second attempt to end the practice) sent a letter to Yale officials—calling for an end to legacy admissions.

And for More… Join us in tomorrow’s webinar!

Just Announced: US Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and ERN CEO Jorge Elorza will also join the panel!

Ongoing Learning Losses

Yesterday, NWEA, a research-based non-profit that creates student assessments, released a national study regarding the nation's "stalled progress toward pandemic recovery." The New York Times explains that—despite significant efforts to stave off pandemic-era learning losses—students in most grades appear to be showing slower than average growth in both reading and math, leading to gaps that may be widening instead of closing. In both subjects, students are showing an approximately four month gap between their instructional level and that of a "typical prepandemic student."

Although the federal government committed billions of dollars in COVID relief funding, it has been difficult to track that spending. Last week, the CT Examiner reported that Connecticut is investing $10 million in federal COVID relief funds on a high-dosage tutoring effort targeting math for middle and high schoolers. Notably, research has shown that high-dosage tutoring for a full year can produce about four months’ worth of learning gains.

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