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After backlash, College Board dumps ‘adversity score’ from SAT


Critics said it would enable race-based admissions

After substantial criticism, the College Board is dropping its “adversity score” from the SAT, which would have assigned a score based on the socioeconomic background of the student.

The Wall Street Journal reports the change will not stop the collection of information on a student’s background, but rather the College Board will no longer assign a score based on it.

The adversity score had received widespread criticism from parents and educators after the Journal reported on the plan in May.

Among the criticisms was that it would enable race-based college admissions. Others called it just another invitation for admissions fraud.

One of the most outspoken critics was conservative scholar Heather Mac Donald, who pointed out at the time the score was announced that it would reinforce the soft bigotry of low expectations. She also argued that it ignores the real problem with black students performing poorly on the SATs, which can be traced to cultural issues.

“Black parents need to focus as relentlessly as Asian parents on their children’s school attendance and performance. They need to monitor homework completion and grades. Academic achievement must no longer be stigmatized as ‘acting white,'” Mac Donald wrote.

“And a far greater percentage of black children must be raised by both their mother and their father, to ensure the socialization that prevents classrooms from turning into scenes of chaos and violence,” the Manhattan Institute scholar wrote.

The adversity score marked the second time that the College Board had attempted to implement such a program.

About 20 years ago a similar attempt had been made to implement a diversity score into the SAT application, but it was abandoned after a similar backlash, according to the Journal.

From the article:

The original tool, called the “environmental context dashboard,” combined about 15 socioeconomic metrics from a student’s high school and neighborhood to create something college admission officers called an “adversity score.”

Considering a student’s race and class in college admissions decisions is a contentious issue. Many colleges, including Harvard University, say ensuring a diverse student body is part of a school’s educational mission. A lawsuit accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants by holding them to a higher standard is awaiting a final ruling from a judge. Lawsuits charging unfair admission practices have also been filed against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of California system.

“We listened to thoughtful criticism and made Landscape better and more transparent,” David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, said in a statement.

The new “Landscape” information will not alter students’ test scores and only provides information on high schools and neighborhoods, not individuals, according to the College Board. The Landscape information to be given to admissions officials will include data on the neighborhoods’ median family income, housing stability, education levels and crime rates.

The Asian American Coalition for Education, an early critic of the adversity score, stated in a news release that the decision to drop the adversity score was the right call.

“Though we support the reasonable use of socioeconomic factors to help students from poor families, we believe most college admissions should be merit-based. We urge the College Board and all American colleges and universities to refrain from using corrosive and irresponsible acts of universal social engineering to manipulate every applicant’s admissions prospect,” AACE President Yukong Zhao said.

Read the Journal report.

CORRECTION: The original post incorrectly described the most common moniker for the socioeconomic score the College Board was rescinding. It is known as an “adversity score.” The original post also misidentified the group suing Harvard for alleged anti-Asian practices in admissions. It is Students for Fair Admissions. The post has been amended.

IMAGE: smolaw / Shutterstock.com

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