College Board, the organization that develops and administers the SAT
test, has developed a new "adversity score" to augment the
widely used college admissions examination. The fact that the
College Board has had to create an "adversity score" is
reason enough to discard the badly flawed SAT test, a test that many
consider racially biased, and that only measures the likelihood of
first-year college success. In other words, it measures the
accumulated advantages that some students have over others because of
the quality of their high schools, their family wealth, and other
factors. The "adversity score" seeks to measure the
disadvantages that some students experience. Interestingly, the
"adversity score" does not measure race, although racial
discrimination is alive and well in our nation.
the development of an adversity score that does not account for race
is a capitulation to the anti-affirmative action forces, some
directed by this administration's Justice Department that have
brought lawsuits against Harvard and other universities because of
"anti-Asian" bias. It is also a bow to the argument that a
white student from a poor family is more disadvantaged than a black
child whose family is upper-middle-class when there is plenty of
evidence that this is not necessarily so. Structural racism is so
woven into our national consciousness that child of middle-class
black folks is likely to do worse than their parents did. Our nation
is in race denial, and this adversity score, which does not consider
race, is part of the denial.
pilot testing of the adversity score seems to indicate that using it
may create more diverse admissions, but there are precious few
details about the score (and it won't even be shared with students
and their parents). But the very existence of an adversity score
raises questions about the efficacy of the SAT. This is perhaps why.
is an interesting time for the adversity score to be rolled out.
Robert Schaffer, Public Education Director of Fair Test (the National
Center for Fair and Open Testing) says the adversity scores are a way
for the College Board to defend itself against its critics. He said,
"Schools do not need the SAT or ACT – with or without
'adversity scores' – to make high-quality, admissions decisions
that promote equity and excellence." In fact, more than 1000
colleges and universities, including half for the top 100 liberal
arts colleges, do not use the SAT to evaluate applicants.
should colleges use, instead, to evaluate students? How about high
school grades? Some will argue that the quality of high schools
varies. Well, that ought to be an impetus for improving the quality
of some high schools, especially those in inner cities. How about
class rank? The University of Texas uses class rank to admit some
students, which ensures a diverse class given the segregation that
remains in our nation's high schools. The adversity score will
purportedly reflect differences in high school quality.
the use of the SAT would do much the same, allowing college
admissions counselors to make better decisions. The College Board
says it is a nonprofit organization, but let's follow the money. It
makes so much money that its President, David Coleman, earns more
than a million dollars a year, more than the President of Harvard
University. The organization is making megabucks on the backs of our
students, and it is reinforcing biases along the way. Some see the
adversity score as a step in the right direction toward modifying the
SAT. I see it as a defensive move to shore up a flawed test and an
even more flawed organization.
fall, more than 150 colleges will use the adversity-enhanced SAT in
their admissions process. Based on those results, more colleges will
use the score to measure adversity. I know lots of folks who
consider the development of an adversity score good news. It would
be much better news if colleges and universities simply decided to
stop using the SAT. It measures privilege, not knowledge, and it is
demonstrably biased. Fixing a corrupt system instead of changing it
only serves to reinforce the status quo.