The SAT’s Racial Prejudice By The Numbers

Bribing administrators  and having people take tests for your kids is one way to cheat in college admissions. Another way is to have the College Board cheat for you.

I should have written about this days ago, I know. I haven’t been feeling well, though, and this story literally makes me sick.

The SATs are adding a so-called “adversity score” that will artificially raise the test scores of some students beyond what they actually deserve on a level playing field competition. This is, we are told, “to help colleges and universities account for the various educational and socioeconomic factors that may negatively impact students’ scores.”

Let me translate: this is a cynical and dishonest device to give cover to colleges and universities as they try to base their admissions on race and ethnicity while avoiding legal prohibitions on discrimination based on race and ethnicity.  That is all it is, and exactly what it is.

Spins the Times:

“Colleges have long been concerned with scoring patterns on the SAT that seem unfavorable to certain racial and economic groups.Higher scores have been found to correlate with the student coming from a higher-income family, having better-educated parents, and being white or Asian rather than black or Hispanic.”

Allow me to clarify again. Correlation is not causation. Nobody has been able to prove or show why certain groups perform consistently poorly  on the tests, especially because the group disparities are consistent across socio-economic categories. It might be that certain cultures don’t keep books around the house, or don’t have stable families, or don’t promote learning rather than toxic behaviors. Whatever it is,  slapping a bonus score on the SATs that rewards students and families for such things is as offensive as it is unjust.

The adversity score would be a number between 1 and 100, with an average student receiving a 50. It would be calculated using 15 factors, like the relative quality of the student’s high school and the crime rate and poverty level of the student’s home neighborhood. The score would not be reported to the student, only to college officials.

Once, I would say that fair and intelligent college officials would then remove the scores, since they will be 99 and 44/100s % bullshit. No longer. How is this phony bonus system different in intent and results than Harvard College slapping negative factors on Asian applicants, like noting that they are “cold” and  “stand-offish”? It isn’t.

“Admissions officers have struggled for years to find ways of gauging the hardships that students have had to overcome, and to predict which students will do well in college despite lower test scores.”

But since they have no data that proves that lower test scores are really based on “adversity,” the College Board decided to fake it, and just artificially inflate scores using numbers, guesswork and traditional liberal cant as a substitute for fairness and integrity.

Got it.

“We’ve got to admit the truth, that wealth inequality has progressed to such a degree that it isn’t fair to look at test scores alone,” [David Coleman, chief executive of the College Board] recently told The Associated Press. “You must look at them in context of the adversity students face.”

And then make up numbers to falsely suggest precision and certainty when the exercise is pure bootstrapping and supposition.

Naturally, the usual suspects—those who believe that success should be parceled out by quotas rather than earned—approve of this dishonesty. Here’s the Talking Point Memo, for example, rationalizing the cheat:

“Colleges have long tried to bring diversity of all sorts to their student bodies, and they have raised concerns over whether the SAT, once seen as a test of merit, can be gamed by families who hire expensive consultants and tutors. Higher scores have been found to correlate with students from wealthier families and those with better-educated parents.”

What disingenuous garbage. (The title tells us how logical the essay is going to be: “SAT Changes Show Just How Rigged It Was To Begin With,” which is practically Orwellian. The fact that the SAT is now rigging its test proves that it must have been rigged before. I wonder what the author, Carolyn Heinrich, scored on her SATs…)

1) Colleges can try to have all the diversity they want, as long as qualified applicants aren’t penalized for what color they are and who their parents are. That the way a student was raised resulted in the student being more skilled than a student raised in an environment not conducive to educational success should not be a handicap or a bar to advancement. 2) The colleges usually ask whether a student has taken a prep course (they do not cost “thousands,’ as Carolyn writes) and factor that into the evaluation of the test scores. Will the SAT’s also add points for white, middle class students, like me, who never took a prep course? Prep courses are a straw man. 3) Again, this is correlation as a substitute for causation.  Higher scores have been found to correlate with being white or Asian too. Does Talking Points Memo really want to go there?

The “adversity scores” are a dishonest and illegal effort to penalize whites and Asian-Americans based on race, and all the spin and double talk about “wealth disparity” can’t hide it.  I assume the lawsuits will fly thick and fast, and if there is any common sense or justice at all, the College Boards will be declared untrustworthy, incompetent, and useless. And, one hopes, bankrupt.

They have insulted the nation’s intelligence by attempting this transparent effort at rigging admissions.

15 thoughts on “The SAT’s Racial Prejudice By The Numbers

  1. The most unforgivable part is the refusal to release the “score” to the student. The student is paying to be rated, and the college board is using this number that theoretically impacts students without their knowledge. If I were 18 again, I would refuse to take the SAT’s on this basis. I’ve even heard many schools are making it optional

    Closely following is just how completely bullshit the metric is. When I took the SAT’s, the college board knew literally nothing about me, except my mailing address and school. I did not send them any sort of application essay, or family income information – NOT EVEN MY TRANSCRIPT! From two pieces of completely impersonal information, the board purports to define an objective measure of my circumstances? (Will rich parents be buying homes in run down parts of town to give their snowflake’s more street cred on the SAT’s?)

    No narrative, no context, just a superfluous rating based on information already plainly available to the admissions office as part of the application; based on less information in fact. If anything, I’d predict this will push even the most cant-adled colleges to rely on the SAT’s even less, as there is really no way to spin this score sound like anything of value.

  2. The logic in this escapes me. Why use test scores at all. Wouldn’t the affluent kid, who has had the benefits of mom and dad intervening in his education, completing assignments for him or her in order to get that “A” be less likely to overcome the adversity of collegiate challenges on their own than the kid who learned how to overcome challenges due to his or her environment.

    Based on how traumatized many of these affluent students are when confronted with uncomfortable ideas it seems to me most will have a hard time when faced with adversity.

    Until the College Board can show a statistically significant result demonstrating their adversity scale eliminates all cultural bias and equilibrates intellectual capacity to comprehend and learn they are just pissing into the wind.

    • After rereading my comment it seems like I am defending the adversity score. That was not my intent. The entire reason for the SAT was to measure who was academically prepared to thrive in a college setting. The elite colleges, Harvard, Yale, and other Ivy league schools only admitted the most academically talented students. Upon graduation students of these schools are offered ridiculous entry level salaries based on the assumption these students are the best and brightest.

      Apparantly, diversity rules these institutions and such adversity scores will simply justify the college’s admitting decisions an hide the lowering of academic rigor going on for the sole purpose of keeping up the appearance that their students were the creme de la creme of all students. Without that brand distinction graduates cannot command unrealistic entry level salary expectations and without those, prospectice students will be unwilling to pay 50k per year to attend these schools of distinction.

  3. I posted most of my opinions about this in an earlier comment, but I would like to point out that your are wrong about the cost. There are prep courses that do cost $1000’s. If you pay enough, Kaplan will get you the questionbank the SAT is using on its current tests.

    Kaplan sends a bunch of people to take every standardized test. When those people leave the test, they immediately write down as many questions and answers as they can remember. By doing this, they can effectively recreate the exams. They sell these to people. However, this is a very small group of people who can afford these services. These are the same people paying schools double to get their children admitted. This does not skew the overall statistics much.

    Now, having said that, no one should be surprised that the SAT is trying to skew the college population. The SAT has always been biased. Since its purpose was to keep too many Jews out of the Ivy Leagues, it would be surprising if it wasn’t. It has often favored the wealthy. It also favors certain portions of the country. The English section is a good example. When I took the SAT, I noticed a good 6 or 7 of the the “good is to bad as light is to … ” type questions used words unique to New England. I lived in New England briefly and recognized the words. I also knew that none of my Midwestern friends had ever seen those words before. This won’t skew racial statistics, however, because there are minorities in New England. It will give the wealthy New England students yet another leg up (it is written by New Englanders). Skewing the composition of the college population is the original purpose of the SAT. It has been a continual process. Why should we be surprised that it continues on with its purpose?

  4. When I was born, less than 5 percent of all adults had any kind of college degree. Today, I think we are approaching about 40 percent of adults who have some kind of college degree. This is supposed to be progress.

    In reality, this is the democratization of higher education. According to current thinking in the highest political offices, everybody is entitled… as a right… to have a college education. Just about every governor of every state is always bragging about how many college degrees they have given out to their voters… I mean citizens. Not really “given”… more like sold… for considerable profit for higher education, I might add. They never really talk about educating people or really preparing those young people to make a living or to serve their community (except during commencement speeches). Some of these degrees are worthless.

    Maybe not everybody is smart enough to be a scientist, or a doctor, or an architect, or an engineer, or an lawyer or other highly technical and exact professions. Never mind that. That is not politically acceptable. People should be paid the same even if they are not particularly smart and have no special skills that justify exceptional compensation. A burger flipper should be paid just as much as a CEO. The government should guarantee that everybody is rich.

    The political thinking today seems to be leaning towards the idea that everybody is equal… or should be equal… wealth inequality is unfair. Rich people are evil. Poor people are victims. Government needs to make everybody equal… and use any force necessary to make it be.

    What could possibly go wrong with this trend?

    • I wonder what AOC’s adversity score was. Considering her father was an architect and they resided in Yorktown Heights which is mostly white Non-Hispanic, I’m sure that she got an favorable adversity score because of her Puerto Rican background. Too bad she didn’t stay with science which she seems to be well qualified in instead on going into politics.

  5. Translation – We in academia are going to base our admissions on race. If we can’t do it one way, we’ll find another way, but we will always find a way. Get used to it, because this is just how it’s going to be.

  6. Has it yet been proven that these tests (SAT, ACT, GRE etc) are at all predictable of the outcome? A classmate of mine was brilliant in mathematics yet could not successfully achieve an acceptable SAT score. He was, however, conditionally admitted to the Rensselaer Poly Technical Insititute. He graduated summa cum laude. Another acquaintance had GPA’s in low 2.0 range during her undergraduate years. She scored in the mediocre range of the GRE’s and went on to earn her doctorate in neurobiochemistry.
    The whole bogus testing system falls short and should be abandoned because of its inconsistency. It does not measure either the inherent desire or work ethic that does predict success.

  7. As a really witty law school friend and classmate said in 1980, “If they’re going to make the SATs easier for black kids, they’re going to have to make them harder for Jews and Asians.”

    A joke, at the time.

    Query: Are the Educational Testing Service people going to do an in depth profile of each test taker’s school, family situation (including tax returns) and housing condition? This could be fairly expensive and subject to abuse.

    Ironically, I’ve been told by a former ETS employee neighbor that the company is now Chinese owned. No idea whether it’s true or not.

    • When they dumbed down the SAT years ago (April 1995) I lost all confidence in the test. Students were scoring lower, so we will give points on the test to make up for it. Lunacy!

      For instance, if I made 1300 before that date, my score now could be as high as 1450.

      Now we know they will rig the test scores outright, using subjective criteria. Why take this test?

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