In the name of equality, the University of California is dropping SATs, long the predictor of whether kids will do well in college.

The SAT, according to their rationale, discriminates against kids from low-income black and Latino families because they can’t afford fancy prep schools and private preparation.

Since the California system is massive, it is likely to be a trailblazer. If so, they will be overlooking the factor that most affects SAT scores: family structure. Statistics show that students from an intact, two-parent family have improved chances.

In a must-read column in the Wall Street Journal, Bill McGurn explains:

Undeniably wealth is a big advantage. But if the idea is to address what’s keeping children from a college degree, instead of papering over the achievement gap, it might be better to address the elephant in the room: family.

It’s taboo to raise it, but for all the invocations of “science” and “data-driven decisions,” seldom is any recognition given to what the data tell us about the most privileged kids of all: those living with their biological parents under the same roof.

‘Family structure is about as important as family income in predicting who graduates from college today,’ says W. Bradford Wilcox, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and a senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies. ‘In the absence of SAT scores, which can pinpoint kids from difficult family backgrounds with great academic potential, family stability is likely to loom even larger in determining who makes it past the college finish line in California.’

McGurn includes a fascinating chart.

According to the chart, young people from households that include two married, biological parents, have the best chance of getting through college in ten years. At the bottom are kids who live with never married mothers or grandparents. Interestingly, children who grow up with two biological and cohabiting but not married parents are third from the last.

By dropping the SAT California colleges and universities will likely reduce the number of students from Asian family backgrounds. There is a better, fairer way to improve the academic chances of kids from low-income households, but it would require making certain judgments unpalatable to progressives.

McGurn writes:  

If it’s unjust that rich kids get test prep from their parents, why doesn’t the university simply come up with a good prep course and provide it free to anyone who wants it? If the rejoinder is that the wealthy kids enjoy the further advantage of better schools, why do so many SAT opponents also reject measures that might help level the playing field—vouchers and charter schools come to mind—by giving underserved kids the opportunity of going to a good school too?

The modern American university isn’t afraid to weigh in when it comes to issues outside its direct purview. Two days before UC announced its decision on the SAT, it boasted of having completely divested from fossil fuels. But when it comes to addressing a major factor keeping students out of its system and thus widening the achievement gap—crickets.

Solving the real SAT problem requires acknowledging the benefits of marriage. While progressive elites tend to recognize the value for themselves, they ignore it for less affluent people. Upholding the value of marriage sounds too close to an old-fashioned value judgment.