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Behind UC's 'admission by exception' side door: sports, money, diversity — and secrecy

Original post made on Aug 10, 2019

While it's unclear if admissions by exception played a direct role in the college cheating scandal, it has surfaced as a potential weak spot as policymakers seek ways to bulletproof the university's admission system from scammers.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, August 10, 2019, 8:49 AM

Comments (2)

4 people like this
Posted by No smoke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2019 at 4:40 pm

The different modes of admission standards are:
1) satisfy a-g requirements
2) test-only option
3) exception

So, satisfying #1 and #2 don't mean you get in, they just are minimum requirements. As has been said above, there needs to be a way to admit exceptional students who don't meet those requirements.

#1, a-g, has alternative ways of satisfying the requirements, for example, getting a certain score on an SAT subject test.

This makes this option attainable for some homeschoolers who school through public district programs, and if they take courses that are official a-g courses from accredited programs. There are a number of hurdles:

It can be difficult for homeschoolers to get in to testing centers near them, or to get information about testing centers. Although studies show they do better on average on standardized tests, a lot of homeschoolers are homeschooling so they can spend their time on more independent and advanced educational opportunities. Homeschoolers have a lot of options to take courses that are designed to be a-g, which are vetted by, say, public charters that can grant official a-g credit for those classes. But a child could be taking the exact same class and doing just as well on the work, but not homeschooling through a public district, so they will not get the official credit on their transcript for the exact same course that someone else gets credit for.

Getting that official credit can be very tough for programs, even if they are WASC-accredited organizations that have gone through the difficult a-g approval process for their courses (a-g approval is granted on a course-by-course basis, not by organization). UC can pull the official approval at any time for arbitrary reasons unrelated to the educational program quality.

2) More homeschoolers apply under the test-only option, but it adds to students burdens in a nonsensical way. For example, homeschoolers will have to take subject tests to comply, even if the same children have completed upper level college courses (graded, at accredited institutions) in those subjects already. So, for example, a child who may have gotten an A in multivariable calculus at the local community college or even UC, might still have to take Math2 subject test. It's just a waste of time and money. Some homeschoolers balk at that kind of thing -- they took all those educational risks for a reason.

3) Homeschoolers who apply under the exception are typically those who go on a very, very nontraditional path. Because UC's admit such a small percentage by exception, most people don't want to take the risk unless they are very, very sure of the quality of their application.

I don't want to leave the impression that students choose the above options, they just have to make sure their applications satisfy one of them. If something goes wrong, at least the UC has some discretion to include students who might be excluded for simple administrative mistakes.

3 people like this
Posted by No Smoke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2019 at 12:36 pm

I think the way the UCs can calm questions about this is to create more alternatives to satisfy the a-g requirements by studying the common exceptions required by students in the most common groups.

For example, for homeschoolers, they might make it possible to use courses that are designed to fulfill a-g credit, that are frequently otherwise granted a-g credit by public schools for independent study students. They might make it possible for homeschoolers to use more advanced community college courses to satisfy a-g credits so homeschooled students don't have to take unnecessary tests. This already happens, to my understanding, but this should be expanded to take into account the often more advanced work done by students taking UC-transferrable courses and doing well in them.

The kinds of tests accepted could be expanded, so for example, a student could be allowed to satisfy the requirements for a-g by taking CEFR test through an organization that traditionally tests students for, say, foreign college or job certification.

This way, the students who really need the exceptions will not be competing with those who effectively meet them but don't because the UCs haven't expanded the alternative ways students meet them as educational options change in the 21st century.

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