How UC Bureaucrats Use Advanced Placement Tests To Help Asians, Hurt Whites

My article last week o
n Advanced Placement (AP)
tests provoked my favorite type of letter: one that tells me
I don`t know what I`m talking about and then proceeds to be
so informative that I finally do know.

I focused on AP tests` emergence as a sort
of tacit

tracking mechanism
for high schools and the sharp
in students` taking and passing them.

correspondent, a test tutor called Mitchell Carr, emails:

“I know more about
AP, SAT, and ACT test scores and their use in college
admissions than you do, and that`s saying a lot. … Your AP
article`s focus is totally screwy … The public policy issue
about AP has nothing to do with the pass rate of APs, but
rather AP`s influence on college admissions via Grade Point
Average (GPA).”

Carr proceeds to document that the
proliferation of Advanced Placement classes in high schools
has harmed the chances to get into the University of
California of white (and to some extent middle class black
and Hispanic) kids. It benefits some
inner city

—but mostly it boosts upscale Asians. Result: as

USA Today
reported in April:

are the single largest ethnic group among UC`s 173,000
undergraduates. In 2008, they accounted for 40% at UCLA and
43% at UC Berkeley — the two most selective campuses in the
UC system — as well as 50% at UC San Diego and 54% at UC
Irvine. Asian-Americans are about 12% of California`s
population …”

of Calif. admissions rule angers Asian-Americans
April 24, 2009]

Why? It`s largely due to a complicated
(and, not surprisingly, not terribly competent) ploy by
University of California administrators to get around the
ban on affirmative action in government imposed by
California voters in 1996. Their stratagems have been
quickly deciphered by

workaholic Asians
. As the May 2008

of the University of California Academic Council
state, “… Asian students seem to
be very good at figuring out the technical requirements of
UC eligibility.”

Admissions to the nine University of California campuses are
a big deal for several reasons:

  • California makes up one-eighth of the population of the

  • Tuition for California residents at world-famous

    is still under $10,000 per year, which means
    that Californians who win admission can save huge sums
    relative to comparably prestigious colleges.

  • Taken as a whole, the University of California ranks
    with Harvard as the most influential institution of
    higher learning. My correspondent Carr writes: “Whatever
    the UC does trickles down to everyone else”

For example,
when UC President

Richard C. Atkinson
noticed his
“granddaughter, then
in 6th grade, already diligently preparing for the SAT by
testing herself on long lists of verbal analogies”
, he
wrote an Op-Ed [PDF]
criticizing the make-up of the SAT. To please their largest
customer, the College Board quickly dropped the useful
analogy questions and added the expensive and dubious
Writing section.

Ever since Proposition 209, UC
administrators have searched for
to admit more
and blacks
. The

California Latino Legislative Caucus
made clear to the
UC Board of Regents that they`d better manipulate the system
to admit more Hispanics or they`d have their budget cut.

response, Carr emails me, the UC schools downplayed absolute
test scores in favor of relativistic high school grades:
affirmative action
was outlawed, UCs made GPA ever more
important, and it now represents 75% of admissions

Berkeley education professors Saul Geiser
and Maria Veronica Santelices confirmed that in a 2007
study, Validity of High-School Grades in Predicting Student Success beyond the
Freshman Year

“After California
voters approved Proposition 209 in 1995, former UC President
Richard Atkinson … instituted several major changes in
admissions policy that became effective in 2001. UC
introduced `comprehensive review,` an admissions policy that
more systematically took into account the impact of
socioeconomic factors, such as parents` education and family
income, on students` test scores and related indicators of
academic achievement.”

Thus UCLA, which gets more applications
than any other college in America, started giving

brownie points
to applicants claiming to have been
(For some reason, I doubt that

hunting accidents
count.) Geiser and Santelices

“UC also revised its
Eligibility Index, a numerical scale which sets minimum
HSGPA [High School GPA] and test-score requirements for
admission to the UC system; the revised index gave roughly
three-quarters of the weight to HSGPA and the remainder to
standardized tests.”

UC`s purpose, of course, was to let in
Non-Asian Minority students (NAMs)
. It`s easy to earn a
high GPA at inner city high schools because students are
graded on the curve and there`s so little competition. Some
attend schools
where the
(Math plus Verbal) might not reach 1000, which is
roughly the minimum level at which it`s plausible to
consider a four year degree anywhere—much less at the
notoriously unaccommodating UC campuses.

for instance, among the 1041 seniors at the three high
schools in

Compton, CA
(birthplace of the Crips gang and West Coast
gangsta rap), a grand total of fourteen 12th graders scored
1000 or higher (which is the equivalent of 890 under the
tougher scoring system used before 1995):

Moreover, my correspondent Mitchell Carr adds, UC adopted

“… a
new policy called `Eligibility
in the Local Context
`, which extended eligibility for UC
admission to the top four percent of graduates from each
California high school.”

Compton`s three high schools automatically get 42 students
admitted to UC schools—even though 28 of them have
three-digit SAT scores and will likely flunk out.

Yet this California policy of
automatically letting in the top four percent of each school
isn`t as bad as the

top ten percent policy
in Texas. That was pushed through
in the 1990s by Gov. George W. Bush (where have we heard
that name before?)
to sleaze
a court ruling banning quotas.

Inevitably, UC`s decision to give more
weight to grades led to schools engaging in a grade
inflation arms race. The main trick: classes designated
“AP” by the high
schools come with a
“bonus point”
when calculating GPA. That makes an A in
an AP class worth 5 on the traditional 0 to 4 scale. Thus,
freshmen admitted to UC Berkeley in 2003 averaged an absurd
GPA of

on a 0 to 4 scale.

course, there`s no evidence that giving AP classes a bonus
point helps UC make better admissions decisions. Geiser and
Santelices found in 2004 [The
Role Of Advanced Placement And Honors Courses In College
that a multiple regression model counting bonus points for
AP classes did a worse
job of predicting college freshmen`s GPA than one that
simply ignored bonus points.

again, the UC administrators don`t want better students—they
want minority students.

Moreover, the University of California
admissions process gives no weight to getting a good score
on the actual AP Test.
Hence the rush by many high schools to rig the system by
sticking the “AP”
label on sundry mediocre classes.

correspondent argues:

emphasis on GPA allows predominantly
Under-Represented Minority
schools (inner city and
charter schools, mostly) to call a course an AP course but
in fact teach something very different. (The AP curriculum
checks are a joke.) But it allows their students to present
transcripts to colleges with high GPAs. The colleges know
they are a joke, but it gives them affirmative action

For example, I`ve seen a document (not
online) from a typical California public high school with a
couple of thousand students, mostly Hispanic. Last year, 400
students received letter grades in classes designated
Advanced Placement. (I`m not counting Spanish Language AP
courses here, which have less to do with education than with
gifts to immigrants. I`m also excluding the school`s more


Here`s a
chart summarizing report card grades awarded by the school
in its official AP classes versus the scores earned by these
same students on the actual College Board AP Tests.

AP Class Grade

AP Test Score

A or 5



B or 4



C or 3



D or 2



F or 1 / Not Taken



In other words, this public school
bestowed As (counting as 5s for UC admissions purposes) upon
30 percent of its students taking AP classes.
Nonetheless, only
three percent scored 5s on their AP Tests

Only 8
percent scored 4s or 5s. And only 24 percent simply passed
the AP tests with a 3 or better.

Similarly, only 4 percent of report card grades were Fs. On
the other hand, 49 percent of the school`s AP students
either scored the minimum 1 on the AP Test (33 percent) or
didn`t even attempt it (15 percent)

average GPA in this high school`s AP classes was a 3.7. In
contrast, the average AP score, counting AP students who
didn`t take the test as 1s, was 1.7 on the 1 to 5 scale, or
the equivalent of a D- in a typical college intro class.

Still, these AP scores aren`t bad by public school
standards. In 2006, the

Washington Post
reported about one local high
school: “Last year, 59 of 60 tests taken at Potomac drew a score of 1, the
lowest on the 5-point scale.”

Crack AP Test Barrier

Daniel de Vise, September 1, 2006]

contrast, my younger son`s quite rigorous high school calls
few classes “AP”
because it doesn`t want to impose the College Board`s
curriculum on its star teachers. Furthermore, unlike so many
schools, it doesn`t want to pretend it`s teaching the AP
curriculum when it isn`t. And the school flat doesn`t like

grade inflation,
which gives students

swelled heads.

Instead, this school gives a more
reasonable 0.3 point GPA boost for taking an
“Honors” class.
Yet, its typical student takes four to five AP tests during
his career, and averages 4.3 out of 5.

the name of the class matters less than the quality of the
teacher and students.

At this
school, it`s not uncommon for students to get higher scores
on AP Tests than they get grades on their report cards.

This honest grading gives them a better
picture of what competition will be like in UC colleges—but
not a better chance of getting into one in the first place.

AP classes for Non-Asian Minorities have
been heavily pushed over the last decade. For example,
Jay Matthews,
education reporter
for the
Washington Post, [click
and scroll down for Peter
Brimelow`s review of his review of

Worm In
The Apple
] created his Challenge Index that
Newsweek turned
into its annual
Best Public High
Schools in America
cover story. The Index`s formula
is derisible:

“The number of
Advanced Placement, Intl. Baccalaureate, and/or Cambridge
tests taken by all students at a school in 2007 divided by
the number of graduating seniors.”

In other
words, it doesn`t matter whether the students pass the test,
just that they take the test. Mitchell Carr scoffs in his
email to me:

of low-income schools with hideous average SAT scores and
horrible academic stats make the
Newsweek Challenge
Index, which leads to thousands of AP tests being turned in
with randomly bubbled-in multiple-choice sections and "THEY
MADE ME TAKE THIS TEST" scribbled across an otherwise empty
essay section.”


“The lack of control of content allows
low performing schools to just label courses `AP,` while
high performing schools often strictly ration access for
their own purposes.”


achieving kids
in competitive schools, to say nothing of
reasonably bright but not hyper-motivated kids, are not
getting access to AP classes.”

Middle class black and Hispanic families
expensive suburbs
are particularly hard hit by this
rationing of AP classes. Carr writes:

“Suburban minority students often have respectable

SAT/ACT scores
coupled with God-awful GPAs. … UC
Berkeley could almost certainly get better-educated
minorities by looking in Palo
than Oakland. But the NAM kids in Paly will have
awful grades.”

Paradoxically, the big winners from the
UC`s attempt to discriminate in favor of Non-Asian
Minorities are…Asian
. Carr points out:

“Once GPA became
increasingly important in UC admissions, the strongest kids
started taking all the AP courses they could, because of the
bonus points. The irony, of course, is that grades became
important because of the low achieving kids, but the public
universities have to be consistent, so it rippled up. The
emphasis on GPA after affirmative action was banned is the
reason for the explosion of Asian students—Asians have much
higher GPAs than whites (but not much higher test scores,
for the most part).”


“Fifteen years ago, a student with outstanding test scores
and a high 3.8 GPA in AP courses could get into UC Berkeley.
Today, a student who doesn`t have higher than a 4.0 doesn`t
have a chance at Berkeley unless he`s a NAM or an

Asians tend to be harder working, more
organized, more conformist, and more devoted to

gaming the system
. In contrast, white Americans tend to
have a touching faith that experts have no doubt devised
fair methods for selection, so it wouldn`t be sporting to
try to find an edge … an assumption that immigrants find
most amusing.


“As for the reason
white students are underrepresented in AP classes, it`s
probably because access is granted by GPA in most suburban
schools. Asians have a better GPA, while not higher
competence, than whites, and this keeps whites (particularly
boys) from getting into AP classes. Parents can challenge
this, but few choose to—because few white parents understand
the impact that AP has on GPA.”

Thus, Asians take
as many AP Tests as whites per capita. Yet,
passing rates on the AP Tests are almost identical,
suggesting that whites could take a lot more AP classes if
they merely got their acts together.

Currently, the UC system is talking about
changing the admissions rules to make the process even more
subjective—no doubt so that even more NAMs are eligible for

always looking out for the interests of Asian-Americans, are
strenuously protesting.
USA Today


, parents and lawmakers are angrily calling on
the university to rescind the policy … They point to a UC
projection that said the new standards would sharply reduce
Asian-American admissions while resulting in little change
for blacks and Hispanics, and a big gain for white students.
`I like to call it affirmative action for whites,` said

Ling-chi Wang

] a retired
professor at UC Berkeley. `I think it`s extremely unfair to
Asian-Americans on the one hand and underrepresented
minorities on the other.`

would be grossly unfair for the primary taxpayers of
California to become less underrepresented in the
universities they built.

For that matter, what have
white guys
ever done for the human race? I mean, besides
antibiotics and

and almost all the other good ideas of
the last 500

un-PC truth: If anybody cares about where the next set of
creative ideas that will shake up the world will come from,
then we ought to be thinking about the next generation of
white guys.

the kids from intact upper middle class families won`t have
much more than the usual trouble. But there are an awful lot
of white boys being raised today by single moms who can`t
quite figure out males, and don`t have the energy left over
to figure out how to game the system for them, either.

And these kids are growing up in a culture
where “white boys”
are portrayed as either
or buffoons.

Why put up with the hassle? There are more

video games
than ever to disappear into.

In summary, when it comes to university
admissions, it`s time to
read the fine print.

There are no
“White American
to to do it for you.

[Steve Sailer (email
him) is

movie critic

The American Conservative

His website

features his daily blog. His new book,