Rebecca Zwick

Rebecca Zwick


Using Quantitative Techniques to Promote Diversity in Admissions

September 29, 2020 (Tuesday)


My recent research has involved the use of constrained optimization, an operations research technique, to increase the diversity of admitted classes. Constrained optimization allows the incorporation of both academic requirements and diversity goals. The incoming class’s academic performance (say, the average GPA or test score) is maximized while class composition requirements are imposed. For example, in one college admissions study, we required that a composite of high school GPA and admissions test score be maximized, provided that a quarter of the admitted class be from a low-income neighborhood. We also applied this method to historical data on applicants to graduate programs, maximizing a composite of GRE scores and undergraduate GPA, while requiring certain percentages of admitted students be from under-represented groups. We have been successful in “admitting” diverse classes that perform well academically. Classes admitted with demographic constraints often demonstrate academic performance that is superior to classes admitted in practice.


Rebecca Zwick has been a researcher at Educational Testing Service for over 20 years, where she currently holds the title of Distinguished Presidential Appointee. Her recent research at ETS has focused on test validity and fairness and on ways to improve score reporting. Zwick completed a National Science Foundation project in which her research team developed and evaluated instructional materials to help educators to better interpret standardized test results. She also explored the effect of high school quality on the predictive validity of SAT scores and high school grade-point average. Zwick served on technical advisory committees for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Programme in International Student Assessment (PISA), and the SAT. After completing multiple years of research on the college admissions process she authored her 2017 book, Who Gets In? Strategies for Fair and Effective College Admissions.

Zwick is the incoming President of the National Council on Measurement in Education. She taught measurement, statistics, and educational testing as a professor from 1996-2010 at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her career in education actually began in the 1970s, when she worked in teaching and counseling positions with children, adolescents, and adults. These experiences help to broaden her perspective on the role of tests and measurement.