The college/university thread

LeVeL

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Lots to post on the topic of college admissions but I'll start with this:

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

New score comes as college admissions decisions are under scrutiny

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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. A lawsuit accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants by holding them to a higher standard is awaiting a judge’s ruling. Lawsuits charging unfair admission practices have also been filed against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of California system.

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The College Board, the New York based nonprofit that oversees the SAT, said it has worried about income inequality influencing test results for years. White students scored an average of 177 points higher than black students and 133 points higher than Hispanic students in 2018 results. Asian students scored 100 points higher than white students. The children of wealthy and college-educated parents outperformed their classmates.

“There are a number of amazing students who may have scored less [on the SAT] but have accomplished more,” said David Coleman, chief executive of the College Board. “We can’t sit on our hands and ignore the disparities of wealth reflected in the SAT.”

The SAT, which includes math and verbal sections and is still taken with No. 2 pencils, is facing challenges. Federal prosecutors revealed this spring that students cheated on both the SAT and ACT for years as part of a far-reaching college admissions cheating scheme. In Asia and the Middle East, both the ACT and SAT exams have experienced security breaches.

Yale University is one of the schools that has tried using applicants’ adversity scores. Yale has pushed to increase socioeconomic diversity and, over several years, has nearly doubled the number of low-income and first-generation-to-attend-college students to about 20% of newly admitted students, said Jeremiah Quinlan, the dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale.

“This [adversity score] is literally affecting every application we look at,” he said. “It has been a part of the success story to help diversify our freshman class.”

Colleges could glean some of the information that the adversity score reflects from other parts of a student’s application. But having the score makes comparisons more consistent, Mr. Quinlan said.

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James Conroy, director of college counseling at New Trier High School, which serves several affluent and mostly white communities north of Chicago, said the focus on diversity by elite colleges is already high and the adversity score would magnify that.

“My emails are inundated with admissions officers who want to talk to our diversity kids,” Mr. Conroy said. “Do I feel minority students have been discriminated against? Yes, I do. But I see the reversal of it happening right now.”


The College Board tried a similar effort two decades ago but quickly dropped it amid pushback from colleges. In 1999, after California and Washington voted to ban affirmative-action preferences in public education, the College Board created a program it called Strivers.

The program aimed to measure the challenges students faced. It created an expected SAT score based on socioeconomic factors including, if schools chose to add it, race. Students who scored at least 200 points more on the SAT than predicted were called Strivers. Because minorities often had lower predicted scores, they were more likely to be Strivers.

The adversity score, by contrast, doesn’t take into account race and is superior because it is steeped in more research, said Connie Betterton, vice president for higher education access and strategy at the College Board.

“Since it is identifying strengths in students, it’s showing this resourcefulness that the test alone cannot measure,” Mr. Coleman, the College Board CEO, said. “These students do well, they succeed in college.”

The new score—which falls on a scale of one through 100—will pop up on something called the Environmental Context Dashboard, which shows several indicators of relative poverty, wealth and opportunity as well as a student’s SAT score compared with those of their classmates. On the dashboard, the score is called “Overall Disadvantage Level.”

An adversity score of 50 is average. Anything above it designates hardship, below it privilege.

The College Board declined to say how it calculates the adversity score or weighs the factors that go into it. The data that informs the score comes from public records such as the U.S. Census as well as some sources proprietary to the College Board, Mr. Coleman said.

The College Board began developing the tool in 2015 because colleges were asking for more objective data on students’ backgrounds, said Ms. Betterton. Several college admissions officers said they worry the Supreme Court may disallow race-based affirmative action. If that happens, the value of the tool would rise, they said.

“The purpose is to get to race without using race,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Mr. Carnevale formerly worked for the College Board and oversaw the Strivers program.

The dashboard may also be an advantage in a tight competition for market share with the ACT, another college-admissions exam. A spokesman for the ACT said it is “investing significant resources” in a comparable tool that is expected to be announced later this year.

At Florida State University, the adversity scores helped the school boost nonwhite enrollment to 42% from 37% in the incoming freshman class, said John Barnhill, assistant vice president for academic affairs at Florida State University. He said he expects pushback from parents whose children go to well-to-do high schools as well as guidance counselors there.

“If I am going to make room for more of the [poor and minority] students we want to admit and I have a finite number of spaces, then someone has to suffer and that will be privileged kids on the bubble,” he said.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/sat-to-give-students-adversity-score-to-capture-social-and-economic-background-11557999000

Harrison Bergeron would like a word.
 

prizrak

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I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this, aside from the race issue I can see the point that is being made here.
 

JimCorrigan

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It’s positively Orwellian. A scoring method that they refuse to actually explain in detail, and applicants themselves will not even get to see. This is a way to socially engineer outcomes as a means of achieving an arbitrary goal of diversity.
 

LeVeL

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I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this, aside from the race issue I can see the point that is being made here.
Proponents of this idea would say that a kid shouldn't be penalized for being born into a poor black blue-collar family.

Opponents of this idea would say that a kid shouldn't be penalized for being born into a rich Asian white-collar family.

I say no one should be penalized or rewarded for circumstances beyond their control, such as their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, parents' educational attainment, family wealth, etc. The idea that the rich Asian kid from my example above might not be accepted into a top-level school because someone did worse than him on the SAT but happened to grow up poor, absolutely disgusts me. This is the very definition of discrimination. The whole point of having standardized testing is that it's uniform for everyone.
 

prizrak

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It’s positively Orwellian. A scoring method that they refuse to actually explain in detail, and applicants themselves will not even get to see. This is a way to socially engineer outcomes as a means of achieving an arbitrary goal of diversity.
Not sure if agree, looking at the metrics they claim to use, it seems to attempt to address socieconomic factors rather than racial. It makes a certain amount of sense to take into account someone's level of adversity when it judging how high they actually scored.

Ben Shapiro actually said something to that effect before, that if a university is to choose between two people with same score you should choose the one who had to overcome more adversity since presumably they had to work harder to get to the same place.

This is the very definition of discrimination. The whole point of having standardized testing is that it's uniform for everyone.
The general problem with standardized testing is that it is anything but.

But like I said, I'm not 100% on either side, I can see arguments from both sides. The question is really how much weight should the test score (whether weighted or not) carry in the first place. There are other factors colleges look at beyond those scores, perhaps those should be more important.
 

LeVeL

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Ben Shapiro actually said something to that effect before, that if a university is to choose between two people with same score you should choose the one who had to overcome more adversity since presumably they had to work harder to get to the same place.
Emphasis added.
 

TC

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This sounds like something more appropriate for an organization that gives out scholarships and grants, rather than an admissions policy.
 

JimCorrigan

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Not sure if agree, looking at the metrics they claim to use, it seems to attempt to address socieconomic factors rather than racial. It makes a certain amount of sense to take into account someone's level of adversity when it judging how high they actually scored.
Except you don't know what metrics they are using and how they are weighted. It's all being kept secret. That's asinine.

Also "adversity?" That's entirely subjective.

It's bullshit.

Anyone who really cared about this beyond a quick talking point would deal with it from the ground up. I.e., if kids are certain cultures/ethnicities tend to do more poorly than others, that's likely a result of culture. Allow school transfers, so kids that show aptitude aren't forced to stay in the shitty schools in their district, for starters.
 

prizrak

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Except you don't know what metrics they are using and how they are weighted. It's all being kept secret. That's asinine.
The article Lev posted has a chart that tells you what the metrics are, unless I misunderstood and it was just used as an example?

Anyone who really cared about this beyond a quick talking point would deal with it from the ground up. I.e., if kids are certain cultures/ethnicities tend to do more poorly than others, that's likely a result of culture. Allow school transfers, so kids that show aptitude aren't forced to stay in the shitty schools in their district, for starters.
School transfer sounds like a good idea in theory* but you gotta keep things in mind like ability to actually get your kid to that particular school (or busing them there). I personally ran into that situation recently, we almost had to move (long story), and we were very constrained as to where we could have actually gone because dropping kids off in the am and then having to get to work by a certain time was a concern.

*NYC actually does allow that, there is a test the kids can take before kindergarten and depending on score they could apply to better schools

I actually had a slightly different thought after talking to a friend of mine, if the test doesn't measure true aptitude then the test itself is flawed and shouldn't really be used as basis for admission in the first place. So the test maybe needs to be redone rather than adding more "features" to it
 

Dr_Grip

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Anyone who really cared about this beyond a quick talking point would deal with it from the ground up. I.e., if kids are certain cultures/ethnicities tend to do more poorly than others, that's likely a result of culture. Allow school transfers, so kids that show aptitude aren't forced to stay in the shitty schools in their district, for starters.
In the end, as always, it's about money. The US school system is badly underfunded, and this gets worse the worse a neighborhood gets. So fixing the issue of inequlity from the ground up would require serious investment.

This "score" is a cheap quick-fix for a structural problem, rolled into pseudo-liberal lingo in order to appease people.
 

JimCorrigan

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The article Lev posted has a chart that tells you what the metrics are, unless I misunderstood and it was just used as an example?
That's data, not the actual metrics/scoring method for this program.

School transfer sounds like a good idea in theory* but you gotta keep things in mind like ability to actually get your kid to that particular school (or busing them there). I personally ran into that situation recently, we almost had to move (long story), and we were very constrained as to where we could have actually gone because dropping kids off in the am and then having to get to work by a certain time was a concern.
I don't disagree, there are a lot of logistics to sort out. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but my larger point was that this problem can only be solved with a slow, ground up approach that goes beyond the short term vision of elected officials and their office terms.

In the end, as always, it's about money. The US school system is badly underfunded, and this gets worse the worse a neighborhood gets. So fixing the issue of inequlity from the ground up would require serious investment.

This "score" is a cheap quick-fix for a structural problem, rolled into pseudo-liberal lingo in order to appease people.
Agreed.
 

Dr_Grip

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I just realize, this is the opposite of what centralist systems like France and Hungary do - they put a modifier to the admission score based on how good the school you went on is, making basically sure that only kids from elite schools have a chance to get into the best universities. In Hungary they say the admission to ELTE is decided with the high school you attend.
 

JimCorrigan

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I just realize, this is the opposite of what centralist systems like France and Hungary do - they put a modifier to the admission score based on how good the school you went on is, making basically sure that only kids from elite schools have a chance to get into the best universities. In Hungary they say the admission to ELTE is decided with the high school you attend.
How are kids chosen to go to their primary and secondary schools in those areas? Is it purely geographic or are there other factors?
 

prizrak

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My wife made a very good point, how many people are going to game the index to get a "higher score". For example her and I could get legally divorced when it's time for our kids to apply to school.
 

Vette Boss

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Ultimately, it is all about money, regardless of any measure to artificially level the playing field. Wealthier parents will use their money to influence schools, regardless of whether their spawn have any merit. I wouldn't be opposed to this sort of measure to determine admissions based on grit/determination/drive or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Hard working students deserve a leg up on the competition.
 

Dr_Grip

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How are kids chosen to go to their primary and secondary schools in those areas? Is it purely geographic or are there other factors?
Academic performance on junior level plus the ability of your parents to move there.
 

LeVeL

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In the end, as always, it's about money. The US school system is badly underfunded, and this gets worse the worse a neighborhood gets. So fixing the issue of inequlity from the ground up would require serious investment.

This "score" is a cheap quick-fix for a structural problem, rolled into pseudo-liberal lingo in order to appease people.
I agree that there's an underlying systemic issue but money is only part of it. Unions make it virtually impossible to fire bad teachers (I went to the best public high school in my city and my algebra teacher argued with me whether or not negative zero belongs on a number line); curriculums have been relaxed over the years; high grades get handed out like candy. We're well behind other developed nations, which is ironic considering that we still have some of the best universities in the world. We need better teachers, higher expectations, and yes, more funding.
 

narf

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I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this, aside from the race issue I can see the point that is being made here.
While there is a chart showing the SAT scores by race, the included tree that builds the adversity score doesn't factor in race.
 
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