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Secret Socioeconomic ‘Adversity Score’ Being Assigned to SAT Test Takers — Disclosed Only To Colleges

Secret Socioeconomic ‘Adversity Score’ Being Assigned to SAT Test Takers — Disclosed Only To Colleges

Students may be penalized in college admissions without knowing it — it’s like being on “Double Secret Probation”

The College Board is trying to make the SAT more ‘fair’ for everyone by taking social and economic factors into account.

This is really just the latest attempt to institutionalize the concept of social justice into higher education. But this process is pernicious — the students who are assigned a socioeconomic score won’t know how they score, so they may be penalized in college admissions without knowing it. It’s like being on Double Secret Probation (ref. Animal House).

Douglas Belkin reported at the Wall Street Journal:

SAT to Give Students ‘Adversity Score’ to Capture Social and Economic Background

The College Board plans to assign an adversity score to every student who takes the SAT to try to capture their social and economic background, jumping into the debate raging over race and class in college admissions.

This new number, called an adversity score by college admissions officers, is calculated using 15 factors including the crime rate and poverty levels from the student’s high school and neighborhood. Students won’t be told the scores, but colleges will see the numbers when reviewing their applications.

Fifty colleges used the score last year as part of a beta test. The College Board plans to expand it to 150 institutions this fall, and then use it broadly the following year.

How colleges consider a student’s race and class in making admissions decisions is hotly contested. Many colleges, including Harvard University, say a diverse student body is part of the educational mission of a school.

See if you can spot the key term in this sentence from the same Wall Street Journal article.  Just think of the Bernie Sanders campaign platform:

The College Board, the New York based nonprofit that oversees the SAT, said it has worried about income inequality influencing test results for years.

Here’s an overview from ABC News:

Would you be surprised to learn that the man behind this plan is the same person who brought us Common Core?

Barnini Chakraborty reports at FOX News:

College Board president pushing ‘adversity score’ is same man behind controversial Common Core program

The College Board president behind the recent decision to assign applicants an “adversity score” is the same man who courted controversy pushing Common Core, the national K-12 curriculum standards project that several states adopted, then dropped under pressure from education activists.

David Coleman, the architect of Common Core and current president and chief executive of the College Board, has a controversial history with standardized tests and higher learning. Critics claim Common Core, which was designed to establish baseline K-12 curriculum standards but was derided as a power grab from local school boards, should be seen as a cautionary tale. They also suspect Coleman’s latest effort, in his current job heading the company behind the SAT test, is an effort to stay relevant amid questions about the fairness of standardized testing.

This part from the same Fox News piece seems rather important:

Michael Nietzel, emeritus of Missouri State University, questioned the need of an “adversity score.”

“At a time when standardized testing is under increased scrutiny and is even being discontinued or minimized as an admission tool by hundreds of colleges, one must wonder whether adversity scores are primarily an attempt to protect the SAT’s market or to promote social mobility,” he wrote in an opinion piece for Forbes. “Colleges that are genuinely concerned about the bias built into the tests or the cheating associated with the SAT or the ACT, have a simpler choice: don’t require students to take them.”

Nietzel also believes “there’s not a straight line from socioeconomic background to SAT performance” and adds that “assigning an adversity number suggests an influence that may not be operating for individual students, and it probably overlooks influences that are.”

“The fact that the College Board does not want students to know their adversity scores reflects their own discomfort with the concept,” he said.

Students won’t know their adversity scores, but schools will? Why so secretive? It almost sounds like this is just a roundabout way of implementing identity politics and class warfare.

Tucker Carlson spoke to Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan institute about this last week. As you can probably guess, she is not a fan. This video is cued to begin at the 9:51 mark, just press play:

Featured image via YouTube.


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Much of the general socio-economic and school-specific data is already known to admissions officers. This is just more data-mining by the College Board, a very profitable “non-profit,” much like Planned Parenthood. Making coin off of advancing social justice theory is a just a political bonus for the organization’s leftist leadership.

“At a time when standardized testing is under increased scrutiny and is even being discontinued or minimized as an admission tool by hundreds of colleges…”

idgi, what else is there besides standardized testing that’s fair and even for college admissions? Blind singing auditions? There are flaws with literally ever other method of admissions, given that you’re running a merit-based admission system. That’s the key now, isn’t it, colleges are basically moving away from merit-based admissions. Evil…

College is a lot like Twitter, the more support they have, the worse they become.

The kids in high school are seeing this: Minorities almost uniformly surprise to the upside in college admissions, while whites almost always surprise to the downside. This hits their work ethic right between the eyes.

DINORightMarie | May 18, 2019 at 12:50 pm

It’s almost like they want people to lie about their socio-economic background and race/gender, etc. so they can “get a better score” or something!

They already boost the scores of people from urban areas with known low-economic or minority-heavy areas (a friend of mine proved that on one of her repeat test attempts – highest scores on ALL sections came form that school in downtown Philly).

Yet another reason to not attend college, or go to one that does not require a test score to be admitted.

    It worked for Fauxcahontas …

    artichoke in reply to DINORightMarie. | May 18, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    Really? This would be surprising, and I don’t trust CB as far as I can throw them.

    Hm, come to think of it, the questions are released for all SAT’s, but only on some of them can you get “question and answer service” to see what your answers were. Without that you can prove nothing about your performance.

    So, only take SAT’s for which “question and answer service” is offered. The funny business (and there have been several kinds recently) seems to happen on the others, not the QAS ones.

Quite a number of big liberal schools have started getting sued over admitting in ‘diversity’ candidates over MUCH more highly qualified academically candidates, prospective students have been easily able to prove it, and schools have been completely unable to justify it.

This is the logical next step. Turn it into a secret, so if any student complains about it they hide behind, “We don’t divulge student’s adversity scores’.

As long as the football and basketball teams are selected based on ability who cares about the medical schools.

Morning Sunshine | May 18, 2019 at 1:49 pm

I have long been NOT preparing my homeschool children for college. mistake? Maybe. I have focused on preparing them for life, for loving and knowing how to learn on their own, and to work. I have one son who, at age 7, declared he wants to be a veterinarian. If that continues to hold steady, I will prep that one for college, with high school transcripts, etc. The rest are on their own.

This is a set-up for an end around on the elimination of affirmative action for certain minorities, in college admissions.

This will be un-PC, at best, and possibly racist, at worst. But, affirmative action was introduced in 1969, ostensibly to counter the effects of societal discrimination against the Black minority. The theory was that, as opportunities increased for minority victims of discrimination, these minority groups would rapidly advance to the point where they could compete with the white majority. However, after 50 years, we have found that it accomplished just the opposite. By giving the minority applicant an arbitrary advantage, it reduced the need for minorities to strive to improve themselves in order to compete with the majority, on a level playing field. The very policy which was supposed to help the minority group actually ended up handicapping it.

So, now we see that the elimination of affirmative action and its attendant quotas is on the horizon. And, institutions, especially educational institutions, are convinced that minorities can not compete with the majority, because of systemic racism. The irony here is that that belief illustrates that systemic racism actually exists, within the educational system. So, in order to protect the educational institution from charges of racial discrimination, this discrimination will be hidden within the college admissions tests, like the SAT. If two applicants have SAT scores of 1250, but one gets extra points for being a minority from a single parent household with a poor economic background, which raises his test score to 1300, the school can pick him or her over the other applicant, without having to admit that the choice was based upon factors such other than objective testing. But, it even worse that that. Reportedly, the social categories will be made available to the school and the institution will be able to pick and choose which social preference points to apply.

It is incredible that after 50 years of affirmative action and minority set asides, that they are still believed to be necessary.

    Rick in reply to Mac45. | May 18, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    Perhaps a doctrine of de facto affirmative action will beat this back.

    artichoke in reply to Mac45. | May 18, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    We were promised at the time (I remember back then, when AA went in under LBJ’s Great Society) that it was for maybe five years and no more than 15 years. Absolutely no more than that.

Coleman was heavily involved in development of Common Core but calling him the “architect” is a stretch.

This is a repudiation of the very concept of a “standardized test”.

It also completes the job of destroying its utility as a tool for matching students to schools. Standardized tests are not some sort of “merit badges”. They’re tools used to help match students to schools. A mismatch does nobody—neither the student nor the school—any good.

The tables and chairs in the children’s section of the library are much smaller than those elsewhere, to be a better fit with the users. Children are uncomfortable in the bigger chairs, adults are positively pained in the small ones. So for schools. There is absolutely no point in taking a student ideally suited to Roosterpoot Community College and sending him to CalTech. He’ll be totally lost ten minutes into his first class, and will never catch up. Get him into the right school, and he might actually be able to learn something. But pretending that he’ll be able to handle CalTech just cheats him out of a useful college career.

I wonder which is the bigger factor behind this—trying to get blacks in, or keeping Asians out?

    Mac45 in reply to tom_swift. | May 18, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    Standardize tests are only part of any recruitment program, including for a college admission. The purpose of a standardized test is to establish a baseline as to the amount of knowledge which a person has in order to succeed in a certain endeavor. While there are other variables which have an impact on success, the knowledge base, in an academic endeavor. A standardized test, if properly geared to the position applied for, assists the person making a decision on accepting a candidate in determining the applicant’s chances for success. A person who scores 1200 on the SAT is much more likely to succeed in college than a person who scores 900.

    Currently, most colleges use a combination of standardize testing, high school performs [GPA, classes taken and their difficulty] and then they look at personalities, unique persons and extracurricular activities. The first two are related to student performance. The last three usually have little relevance to academic performance and allow the institution, or at least its enrollment personnel, a subjective means to influence admissions. These are rarely based upon criteria which will prove positive for academic achievement.

      The Friendly Grizzly in reply to Mac45. | May 19, 2019 at 9:12 am

      Re extra-curricular activities. The kid who can throw a ball well, or has the time to participate in the school play gets a leg up. The kid who needs to work an after-school job, or who spends time not just studying, but going beyond that in search of knowledge, isn’t good enough.

God damn these sinister people. What they cannot destroy openly, they resort to subversion.

Bust these malignant toads, and drive them from positions of influence.

College Board runs the PSAT, SAT, SAT subject tests, AP and College Scholar Service (CSS Profile) that’s used by selective private colleges for financial aid. Of these, only SAT has a meaningful competitor, in ACT.

SAT and SAT subject test scores are sent to colleges. AP scores don’t normally go out until the summer before freshman matriculation, for placement. PSAT doesn’t go direct to colleges although they can buy mailing lists of score bands. CSS goes to the Financial Aid office, and supposedly it would not leak from there back to Admissions. (How do I know this so clearly? We just went thru all this culminating this year. We sent a lot of money to College Board for their products, and we had no choice. College Board, over and over again.)

Now this data collection behemoth is going to start whispering numbers behind people’s backs to the colleges they apply to? Do they whisper them also with SAT Subject Test score reports, which there’s no way to avoid if the school wants the usual 2 scores.

This sounds illegal. I don’t know how, maybe people here can help. Regulate CB as a public utility. Break it up based on an antitrust argument. Do SOMETHING to knock it down. This is way past out of hand, and our high school students all have to face this private corporation’s repeated scrutiny and reports.

And remember, CB and ACT are the real culprits behind Varsity Blues. The prosecutions are mostly for cheating on the SAT and ACT, and the cheating was done by (1) fraudulent qualifying students for 2 day testing who were totally neuro-typical, then (2) essentially not proctoring those tests — letting them arrange private testing with their own proctors. Whaddaya know, some people played the system. If it wasn’t those people it would have been others.

The responsibility is on CB and ACT to monitor these things and ensure test security. Their job is to ensure there are no loopholes; we are defenseless if they don’t. They failed, and people are not talking nearly enough about it.

CB and ACT have been totally silent. They should be groveling, apologizing, promising it will never never happen again. Instead what do we get from CB? Well first there was David Coleman writing an article here, not mentioning his own complicity, to stir up the social justice troops.

And now they plow ahead with this plan, not bothering to tell anyone why they should be trusted. What is the testing behind this thing, how did they decide that it works? What’s the algorithm? If a white kid and a black kid come from the same high school and live next to each other, do they get the same adversity score?

We have to find a way to get CB out of the driver’s seat. They have way too much power and far too little accountability.

notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | May 19, 2019 at 12:10 am

Does this mean the decades long criticism of the SAT being racist are true????????

Albigensian | May 20, 2019 at 9:56 am

There’s probably the basis for a “disparate impact” lawsuit in this adversity score somewhere. Although I suppose you’d have to have access to the secret data, and the scores derived from that data, to bring it.

Perhaps the next step will be to do away with this adversity score and just use it to directly adjust the reported SAT scores? For surely it must seem a terrible injustice that these un-adjusted scores are even reported?

Is it really necessary to point out that Affirmative Action has always depended on secrecy and dishonesty, as those who support and implement these policies seem forever unwilling to reveal exactly what they’re doing and how (and to what extend) they’re doing it?

    artichoke in reply to Albigensian. | May 20, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    Probably no lawsuit, because the discrimination will be against the groups (white and Asian males) who are not legally protected classes.

    The best and most reasonable change we could make to civil rights law is to make everyone a protected class. It won’t happen to repeal existing protected classes, but why not add 2 more in the interest of fairness? How loud could the usual professional grievance mongers scream about that? Well pretty loud because they’re always loud, but they would be on shaky ground.