The College Board: Dumbing Down America

There are now 23 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination with New York’s mayor jumping in. The unveiling of the spies and tactics behind the fake collusion tale continues apace. It looks as though Mueller will testify before Congress on the 12th of Never and the impeachment train will never leave the station. Inspector General Horowitz’s reports on Comey and another on charges of illegal conduct in the DoJ and FBI are due soon, though, as usual, seem to be a long time aborning.  General Flynn’s sentencing hearing should come soon. There were this week some mysterious rulings by Judge Sullivan on disclosure, and the prosecution under new management obtained an order allowing them to unseal some material in its possession, though we don’t yet know what is to be revealed, we assume it is the exculpatory material of which there should be a lot. 

With nothing much new to report on these matters, it’s time to visit what the heck has happened to the College Board and why people should encourage students to take the ACT test for college admission and scrap the SAT one. It’s the only way I can think of slap some sense into an organization which has gone far off its mission and now appears full-fledged into one designed to (further) dumb down America. 

The SAT, which has at various times been referred to as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, Scholastic Assessment Test, and SAT Reasoning Test, was created in an attempt to standardize college admissions procedures and increase access to higher education. In the later 19th century, it was common for individual universities to have their own admissions tests or to grant acceptances to students without testing through certification of specific high schools. Higher education at this time was largely a privilege of the upper classes, with only about 1 in 25 high school graduates going on to college.

In fact, it has proven quite hard to discern aptitude without reference to acquired knowledge, and with minorities generally scoring significantly lower on these tests, several important sections of the exam were scrapped in an effort (a futile effort) to further equalize results.

Major revisions also took place in 1994 and 2005. The 1994 version removed antonyms in an effort to attenuate the benefits of vocabulary memorization, and reading passages were improved to more closely resemble material taught in actual college courses. The use of calculators became permissible for the first time. Criticism of ambiguous questions led to another round of revisions in 2005, the most significant of which were the elimination of certain types of questions that featured analogies and the introduction of the 2400 point scoring system with required essay section. The 2016 SAT reverses some of these changes, which can be seen as the College Board's response to continued competition from the ACT, the adoption of test-optional policies by many universities, and questions about the SAT's usefulness as a predictor of college success.

In 1959 a competitor testing service, ACT, began. Almost every college and university in the U.S. now accepts it.

ACT doesn’t attempt the impossibility of testing aptitude without accounting for college level preparedness. 

ACT, Inc., says that the ACT assessment measures high school students' general educational development and their capability to complete college-level work with the multiple choice tests covering four skill areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science. The optional Writing Test measures skill in planning and writing a short essay. Specifically, ACT states that its scores provide an indicator of "college readiness", and that scores in each of the subtests correspond to skills in entry-level college courses in English, algebra, social science, humanities, and biology. 

This week, the College Board announced it will add to the mix secret “adversity scores,” rating students on deprivation, but nobody taking the test will be told these numbers.

Every student taking the SAT will now be given an 'adversity score' to level the playing field between people with different social and economic backgrounds, but critics say children of affluent parents could be penalized by the new system.

The scoring system was established by the national College Board, the nonprofit which administers the test (snip)

The new system will use 15 different factors to weigh a student's adversity score, based on things such as the crime and poverty rates in the neighborhood where the teens grew up. 

Other elements of the adversity index include housing values, family median income, whether a student is a child of a single parent, or speaks English as a second language.

My spidey sense indicates to me that this is an end run around a feared SCOTUS ruling banning racial discrimination in college admissions. 

The average SAT scores by race are: Asian 1223; white 1123; Hispanic 990; black 946. So if race-conscious admission decisions are banned, the next step for proponents of it is to blame the test, and the way to sidestep that is to add a nonacademic aptitude feature to the scores.

My practical view is that it is absurd to create well-endowed institutions of higher learning and fill them up with students unprepared by inherent capacity or education to benefit from them. Just as silly as it is to jigger admissions to achieve diversity and then allow separate dorms and graduations for minority students. But then I think unity, not diversity, is our strength -- unity based on the notion that competence and perseverance should be the sole judge of admissions, hiring, and promotion policies.

Nor is it correct to suggest that colleges are not doing everything they can to seek out talent in unpromising zip codes. We have contributed to just such a program, helping a young man of adverse background but with talent and grit be better prepared for college. I don’t know of any major college and university which lacks a significant outreach program. Nor do admissions officers already lack incentive and means to check out the things the adversity scale seeks to reveal -- from experience, high school counselor recommendations and applicant essays.

Matt Margolis at PJ Media weighs in:

As Michael Nietzel explains over at Forbes, the College Board has yet to reveal the factors that contribute to the calculation of a student’s adversity score. But he makes an even more important point. “Measuring neighborhood adversity is not the same as assessing an individual student’s resilience or grit. Although we can’t know for sure, it’s doubtful that adversity scores measure the influence of parents, siblings, and mentors on a student,” he explained. “There’s not a straight line from socioeconomic background to SAT performance; assigning an adversity number suggests an influence that may not be operating for individual students.”

If there’s anything we learned from the college admissions cheating scandal it's that students from wealthy families aren’t automatically advantaged. These were highly advantaged kids who still needed to cheat their way into good schools because they or their parents felt entitled to success. Tests only discriminate against those who don’t know the answers.  In the wake of the college admissions cheating scandal, the last thing we need is an artificial “adversity score” to tip the scales in favor of those who don’t know the answers. It’s no less cheating than having someone give you the answers or take the test for you. Everyone has the ability to overcome adversity in their life. College is supposed to be an institution for higher learning; it’s not meant to be a club that everyone can get into. Heck, it’s not even something that everyone should feel obliged to do. Some of the most successful people in the world don't have college degrees. 

Marten Roorda, CEO of ACT, also finds the adversity score wanting: 

I think the SAT “adversity score” is not a great idea. Let me explain. 

Scores that affect students’ futures require transparency, validity and fairness. The algorithm and research behind this adversity score have not been published. It is basically a black box. Any composite score and any measurement in general requires transparency; students, teachers and admissions officers have the right to know. Now we can’t review the validity and the fairness of the score. And even if that changes, there is also an issue with the reliability of the measure, since many of the 15 variables come from an unchecked source—for example, when they are self-reported by the student. 

The plan to report the adversity score only to the college is another example of not being transparent. If I were a student, I would become concerned or angry if the testing company would provide an adversity score to colleges without me knowing it, without me approving it, and without any of the end users understanding how this score is calculated.  [snip]

If parents, teachers and counselors know test scores will be re-equated for adversity, some will attempt to manipulate and game the system. That is easy: You can use an address of someone you know who is living in a poor neighborhood or report lower family income. 
I acknowledge that underserved students face barriers that their more fortunate peers don’t, requiring them to work harder and show greater resilience to reach their goals. But I think admissions officers are already very capable of assessing students’ hurdles without an adversity score, and that assessing an individual student’s resilience or grit is a much better measure than neighborhood adversity. 

Of course, this will be manipulated. Once again Iowahawk boils it down:

David Burge@iowahawkblog

"I don't care if you're going to miss your friends in Palos Verdes High, you're never getting into Stanford unless you do an exchange semester in Appalachia. And we legally changed your name to Lurleen."

David Burge
@iowahawkblog David Burge Retweeted The Wall Street Journal

Every wine mom in Beverly Hills now signing kids up with Adversity Consultants.

The author of the adversity score nonsense was College Board president David Coleman, the architect of Common Core, which six states have now repealed and which has been a point of contention in many states.

 As well, he is the prime mover to feed American kids a prejudiced, anti-American view of history. Read the full critique of this new history guidelines and test to see what our brightest students are being taught. Here’s a sampler:

They made a number of charges. First: “By providing a detailed course of study that defines, discusses, and interprets ‘the required knowledge of each period,’ the College Board has in effect supplanted local and state curricula by unilaterally assuming the authority to prioritize historic topics.” Second: “The new Framework inculcates a consistently negative view of the nation’s past. For example, the units on colonial America stress the development of a ‘rigid racial hierarchy’ and a ‘strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority.’” Third, they noted that the new framework ignored pivotal figures and events in favor of less-important individuals and events that reinforce a leftist narrative of U.S. history: “It excises Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and the other founders from the nation’s story. George Washington’s historical contributions are reduced to a brief sentence fragment noting his Farewell Address. Two pages later, the Framework grants teachers the flexibility to discuss the architecture of Spanish missions, suggesting it merits more attention than the heroes of 1776.”

Gaps in the program include these:

These include emphasizing exploitation, racial conflict, and economic determinism, and omitting the Pilgrims, all Revolutionary War battles, Alexis de Tocqueville, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and much more.

Their analysis and Wood’s also make it quite clear that the new curriculum is nowhere near objective, or even even-handed, philosophically, and is, moreover, organizationally incoherent. Tweaks cannot remedy its defects. It quite clearly needs to be scrubbed and begun anew.

If kids from wealthy families are not automatically privileged, why are their parents cheating to get their kids admitted? And if colleges are genuinely concerned that more affluent kids have an undeserved advantage on the SAT test, why not just scrap it? If you have sacrificed and worked to get your kids the best education possible and taught them the value of working hard to achieve in school, why should they be discriminated against in favor of parents who did not?

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