Is Bernie Behind the New SAT Changes?

The College Board, the “nonprofit” (hah!) behind the SAT, announced that it was reintroducing an “adversity score” to its scoring system.

In short, kids who come from disadvantaged neighborhoods will receive some sort of behind-the-scenes, double-secret notation on their SAT file for colleges to use as they see fit.

Although this policy appears to fall short of adding “bonus points” for social engineering purposes, or something that Bernie or AOC would propose, it sure feels like it.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that we need to do more to make education accessible to low-income and disadvantaged families.  I just don’t think the College Board did anything here.

Here’s what I believe to be the real, hidden reason behind the announcement:  to make us FEEL more kindly disposed to the good ol’ College Board.  I don’t see it doing much else.

Why?

First, college admissions officers already do what the College Board is attempting to pull off with this policy.   Admissions committees go out of their way to recruit kids from low income and disadvantaged families.

(Sure, they also favor legacies, student-athletes and photoshopped student-athletes, but work with me here).

Is it “fair” for admissions personnel to favor certain special categories, instead of sticking solely to academic merits?

There’s no easy answer. As you may already know, it’s being litigated currently by way of a lawsuit by an Asian American student with perfect scores who was denied by Harvard.

This meritocracy/social engineering controversy is also being played out in elite New York City high schools such as Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, which require children to perform really well on standardized tests to be admitted.  Very few African-American kids score well enough to get in.

My take on whether this is permissible or not:

It’s the wrong thing to focus on. We’d all be better off focusing our energies on the stuff we can control.

And, speaking as a parent, I would not want one of my children to feel insecure from wondering if they only way they got into a certain college or notched a certain achievement was because of some “unfair” advantage bestowed on them.

None of this is “fair.” But life isn’t fair either.

But forget about my take.   The College Board can do whatever it wants, but I don’t think anyone reviewing admissions statistics a year from now, or five years from now, will notice any discernible change in academic profiles of admitted students.  I predict business as usual.

Actually, this announcement strikes me as a thinly-disguised effort for the College Board to address legitimate criticism that high income students who pay for test prep have an advantage over less fortunate peers.

Is that unfair?  Right again.  Of course it is.  But the College Board hasn’t claimed in years that the SAT was the great leveler, a pure “aptitude test,” that couldn’t be gamed. (The “A” in SAT used to stand for Aptitude, until the College Board dropped it.)

They used to claim that you couldn’t increase your aptitude scores by studying, but not any more.  Too many test prep operations like ours proved them wrong, time and again.

The announcement was also suspiciously close in time to the very public egg on the face of the College Board, thanks to the Felicity-Lori college scandal, which highlighted the apparent ease college consultant Rick Singer was able to get his clients’ accommodations to take their SATs untimed or with extra time, infiltrate certain College Board-sanctioned testing centers and bribe proctors.  Yowza.  I’d want to change the conversation too.

Not to mention growing criticism in general that the SAT – and ACT –  should go away entirely.  (No way, if you want my prediction.  Too much money involved.)

In summary, I see this announcement as the same type of tactic that any savvy politician would use to divert attention away from negative coverage – the College Board is attempting to change the news cycle with this public relations gambit.

What does this mean, going forward, for Forgotten Middle Class test-takers, who don’t qualify for Favored Nation status under the new College Board guidelines?  Will they have to achieve even higher scores, since they’re arguably being penalized for NOT being in a special category?

It’s unclear for now, only time will tell.

Our “Crash Course” for the ACT starts this Sunday.  We have four spots available.  It’s the last bite at the apple for 11th graders who still haven’t hit their top scores.  Use the coupon code “summercrusher” for 100 bucks off the price.

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Speak soon,

-Andy “Reality Check” Lockwood

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