Wednesday, May 22, 2019

In The Not Too Distant Future

Perhaps 2025, perhaps 2030.

(Cartoonist Pat Cross)

You've heard or read that the College Board which administers the SAT* has decided that the test, long one of the standard tests for college admissions, shouldn't just test the student's ability to understand written English and Mathematics.  They've decided they should weight those scores with a "double secret" adversity score that is supposed to recognize that some students come from a background which makes it harder for them to get ahead.  In principle, this new score could increase the overall "attractiveness" of an applicant beyond what their numeric SAT scores were, and let the students from a "difficult background" win a seat over a student with better scores who doesn't have as high an adversity score.  That appears to be the reason for this move.
The “adversity score” uses 15 factors to determine the level of difficulty and strife the applicant has faced that has shaped or impacted their performance on the SAT (Standardized Admissions Test), and through their high school career to provide “context” to the applicant’s social and economic background, Coleman said.
I call it double secret not just for the Animal House reference, but because the student doesn't get to see their score or know how it was derived.  The colleges see the score, but not the details of how the score was derived.   The problem is that the things they've talked about are not clear pictures of that student's overcoming adversity; they're too nonspecific.

For example, Karl Denninger talks about some of it in his piece (which I largely agree with). As Karl points out, 
That an area has a high crime rate does not mean any particular individual was a victim of crime.  That an area has a high poverty rate doesn't mean that an individual was functionally disadvantaged in learning.
Further, it's a snapshot.  If a student was living in affluence from birth until sufficiently before the test, and something that a parent did collapsed their standard of living, they will get a higher adversity score than they "deserve".  Did they overcome as much adversity as someone who lived 17 or 18 years in that neighborhood?  The converse is also true, if the parents in that bad neighborhood worked hard - maybe worked a couple of jobs - scrimping and saving to get a place in better part of town, they were in adversity all of their life until they took the SAT and get a lower adversity score than they deserve.  

An entrepreneur can see a market developing for rental units in "bad neighborhoods", so the parents doing everything cheating to get their kids into college can move there long enough to get a good adversity score on their SAT.  

This score is telling the colleges nothing meaningful.   

Cartoonist A.F. Branco of Americans for Limited Government thinks he has a reasonable guess about what the adversity score is really all about.

Definitely can't accept the Asian colors, so no whitish colors and no yellowish colors allowed.

* The articles inform me that the company that supplies the test is called the College Board, and the test is called the Standardized Admissions Test.  I'm old enough to have taken that when the company was called the College Entrance Exam Board and the test was the Scholastic Aptitude Test.  Of course, as a Graybeard, I took those while fending off hoards of velociraptors.


  1. Somewhere around here I have my PSAT and SAT results.

    Probably wouldn't get me in anywhere today.....

    1. Your 1200 old-school SAT score is roughly equivalent to a 1400-1500 score today.

      In other words, about 1985, the SAT and the ACT were majorly dumbed down.

      Same thing happened to the LSAT and the GRE. Dumbed down in order to allow applicants to actually score reasonably well.

      Which is nothing new to us 'old people' as we see smart kids today graduating high school with less actual knowledge than we left 8th or 9th grade with. (Seriously, we remember grammar and punctuation, graphing sentences, outlining term papers and such. Kids today? Their eyes glaze over...)

    2. I remember some years ago reading something by Ann Coulter (so it can't be too long ago, maybe early 2000s) where she said today's best and brightest law school graduates couldn't understand the legal opinions of Frederick Douglass, a self-educated former slave.

      Government schools - like government everything else.

    3. Beans - the SAT was dumbed down in 1994. They added 100 points to 'renormalize' the mean scores, which had been dropping for "unknown reasons". Then they dumbed it down again when they went to the 2400 point test. Then they dumbed it down again when they went back to a 1600 point test.

    4. Thanks, McChuck. I hadn't followed those manipulations, like going to a 2400 point test instead of 1600. I think I remember when they added 100, and I remember when there was a general discussion about how scores had been declining.

  2. This country has blown past Orwell and Huxley, put Kafka in the rear view mirror, and is starting to nose past Dante.

    The humor of Clemens and the wisdom of Mencken ain't cuttin' it anymore.

    1. (Millennial) "Who were those guys? Were they guests of Jimmy Fallon, or were they on Survivor?"

      (note: I had to look up who was the host of Tonight show, since I turned off my TV in 1987. I remember Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. I heard about Survivor, though I've never seen it.)

  3. There have been scandals in several cities where people used other's apartments to get into the high school they want, and in some cases city investigators routinely follow kids to look at where they really live... This encourages more of the same cheating that already happens.

    1. Well, they have a head-start on getting elected to Congress.

  4. And so the push to turn the US into just another Turd World country continues.