September/October 2021Vol. XXXIV No. 1

Elimination of Early Sophomore Standing Was a Step in the Right Direction; Eliminating Advanced Standing Credit is the Next Step

W. Craig Carter

In spring 2021, the Faculty passed a change in the rules and regulations which – among other things – eliminated Early Sophomore Standing (ESS). The argument was “Because it depends upon work students did prior to MIT, ESS effectively reinforces disparities in background/training among incoming students.”

Removing inequalities that are reinforced by our rules and regulations is a noble goal and I applaud the Faculty for eliminating ESS for this reason. However, it is only a step in the right direction.

Elimination of ESS treats the symptom and not the root cause. As it was, ESS was practically available to those students who passed Advanced Standing Exams (ASEs) and AP credit – and those students are predominately those who did not suffer from systemic inequities in K-12 education. In effect, the composition of students in subjects such as 8.01 and 18.01 is not representative of the incoming class. One reason students choose to come to MIT is to be co-educated with all the students we admit.

Thus, ASEs and AP credits propagate systemic inequities. They should be eliminated.

Yes: elimination would create more burden on those departments who provide MIT the essential service of GIR education. Arguments that the provision of extra resources would be too expensive indicates – I believe – a misguided ranking of priorities.

Yes: students would object to “retaking material they have already learned.” My responses are: 1) revision is pedagogically sound; 2) many, if not most, FY students who claim to understand calculus know how to manipulate equations, but with little fundamental understanding. I am confident that our faculty is ingenious enough to address this objection in a pedagogical and equitable way.

We’ve taken a great first step to reduce educational inequities. We can do more by eliminating advanced standing.