In: English and Literature

Submitted By jsavage
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Oxford’s Research-Based Affirmative Action
December 10, 2010, 2:58 pm
By Richard Kahlenberg
A large-scale British study, released last week, gives new empirical support for the drive to provide affirmative action to “strivers,” less advantaged students who, despite obstacles, perform fairly well academically. The research finds that students who attended regular “comprehensive” (public) secondary schools did better in college than those who scored at the same level on standardized admissions exams and attended “independent” (private) or “grammar” (selective public) schools.
Pointing to the study last week, Oxford University’s dean of undergraduate admissions, Mike Nicholson, created waves when he declared that students who do well at poor performing secondary schools “may have more potential” than those from more-advantaged schools, and that universities should consider the context in which students compile an academic record. In the United States, universities have claimed for years that admissions officers consider socioeconomic obstacles a student has overcome, though evidence suggests that on average, at the most selective 146 institutions, they do not.
The new study, published by the British National Foundation for Educational Research and the Sutton Trust, a private foundation, was five years in the making and examined 8,000 students. It found that students from independent or grammar schools performed the same in college as comprehensive-school students who scored one or two grades lower on their entrance exams (known as A-levels). For example, a comprehensive-school student who scored three B’s on these exams would, on average, perform the same in college as an independent- or grammar-school student who scored an A and two B’s, or two A’s and a B.
Part of what makes the study striking is that it contrasts with research in the United States on racial…...

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