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Old 05-17-2019, 02:34 PM
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SAT to add adversity score


I don't think I am in favor of this. Seems very subjective.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/college...ouve-overcome/
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Old 05-17-2019, 02:37 PM
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I am not in favor of the testing agency applying an adversity score. That's straight up stupid. If colleges want to take into account adversity that's a different discussion and one that I'm not automatically opposed to if it's protected class blind.
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Old 05-17-2019, 02:41 PM
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I would wonder if they are delving deeply enough in this. It's possible for someone to be "the wealthy family" in a poor neighborhood and the rich kid at a poor school, but if this adversity scoring is only looking at your neighborhood and school, then you'd be treated as if you came from a background of poverty even if in fact you were rich and grew up rich.
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Old 05-17-2019, 02:50 PM
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I would wonder if they are delving deeply enough in this. It's possible for someone to be "the wealthy family" in a poor neighborhood and the rich kid at a poor school, but if this adversity scoring is only looking at your neighborhood and school, then you'd be treated as if you came from a background of poverty even if in fact you were rich and grew up rich.
They also have your FASFA and other information, so I don't think that's going to make much of a difference. They will see your household income.

I don't think this is going to do much of anything. At most, it will help kids at schools that so rarely even send applications to selective schools that the admissions offices have no clue what's going on there. Which is fair--it's not fair now for kids who go to schools that don't know to provide a school profile and write counselor's recs that fill in all this stuff.

For the vast majority of applications, this will not be a new data point. Nothing will change.
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Old 05-17-2019, 02:57 PM
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I would wonder if they are delving deeply enough in this. It's possible for someone to be "the wealthy family" in a poor neighborhood and the rich kid at a poor school, but if this adversity scoring is only looking at your neighborhood and school, then you'd be treated as if you came from a background of poverty even if in fact you were rich and grew up rich.
I could see attempts to game the system: parents of wealthy, private-school-educated kids transfer their child to an inner-city slum school for their junior / senior year in order to maximize their "adversity score" when they take the SAT, and then it's off to Yale.

Last edited by HurricaneDitka; 05-17-2019 at 02:58 PM.
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Old 05-17-2019, 03:55 PM
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I don't see any real reason to object to what they are doing.

Its not as if they are actually adjusting the SAT scores to reflect this, or even recommending that this be done. They are just adding another set of information that may help to provide information about the school and environment in which the student was taught. The admissions department of each university can decide what they want to do to this information. They can ignore it, or take it into account however they see fit. Its not as if colleges and universities aren't already generating similar scores of their own to reward students for achieving in the face of adversity. This just gives them a new set of information to look at if they choose to do so.
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Old 05-17-2019, 04:55 PM
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If you have access to the NYT or want to use up one of your free views, here is a brilliant opinion piece on the topic.

The author, one Thomas Chatterton Williams, is very much opposed to this "pseudoscientific" and manifestly subjective definition of adversity. He shows how the metric may penalize those it was designed to support, and give support to those who don't need it.

Last edited by KarlGauss; 05-17-2019 at 04:57 PM.
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Old 05-17-2019, 05:09 PM
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If you have access to the NYT or want to use up one of your free views, here is a brilliant opinion piece on the topic.

The author, one Thomas Chatterton Williams, is very much opposed to this "pseudoscientific" and manifestly subjective definition of adversity. He shows how the metric may penalize those it was designed to support, and give support to those who don't need it.
I liked it quite a lot.
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Old 05-17-2019, 07:36 PM
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great NYT piece. This adversity is complete BS. And, like any system, can be gained. Especially by those with substantial means. Have a faux divorce, rent a zip code, and voila
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Old 05-18-2019, 09:56 PM
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I think colleges should take these kinds of things into account, but putting it on the score report? No.
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Old 05-18-2019, 10:08 PM
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There's huge problems with this. The primary one is that it screws over any kid who's parent's are the poorest family in a nice neighborhood, or who are one of those parents who kicks them out at 18 with no further support.

In addition it creates an incentive to game the system - I can think of a number of reasonably straightforward tricks to this. Transfer senior year to a much poorer high school. Rent an apartment in a poor area and use it as the official address for the SAT. Actual household income is not being checked I don't think, the FAFSA has that disclosure but this is earlier in the process.

On top of all this, the metrics are secret - supposedly to prevent gaming the system. Except this means that erroneous information can easily be used in someone's "adversity report" and used to create a false score.

To step back and take a broader view - the actual problem here is that it's worth a lot to someone's future career prospects to have attended a school with limited slots. We have 370 million Americans and only a small number of them will ever get to attend an elite college in their lifetime. This seems inefficient for a number of ways - the 30k feet view is that every citizen with the capacity should be able to receive the best education they will benefit from. That would be optimally efficient for this country as a whole.

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Old 05-19-2019, 12:01 AM
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Doesn't the entrance essay/letter basically cover this already? Sounds like double-dipping, if not worse.

I guess they're not including discrete "race" pseudoscience, that's good.
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Old 05-19-2019, 01:59 AM
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Doesn't the entrance essay/letter basically cover this already? Sounds like double-dipping, if not worse.

I guess they're not including discrete "race" pseudoscience, that's good.
This is like the difference between writing a letter to a potential lender swearing you will pay them back and claiming you paid previous debts back and a credit report. Obviously a credit report prepared by a neutral third party is seen as a far more trustworthy metric. The problem with this adversity score is just like a credit file, many files will have errors in them- except the college board wants to keep their metric secret.

Furthermore, the metric is flawed. I have a friend who works a job paying 10 bucks an hour with 30k in available credit. Yet if bill gates had never borrowed money in his life, he would not be able to get more than a $1000 starter credit card.

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Old 05-19-2019, 02:46 AM
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I doubt that.
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Old 05-19-2019, 04:10 AM
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To step back and take a broader view - the actual problem here is that it's worth a lot to someone's future career prospects to have attended a school with limited slots. We have 370 million Americans and only a small number of them will ever get to attend an elite college in their lifetime. This seems inefficient for a number of ways - the 30k feet view is that every citizen with the capacity should be able to receive the best education they will benefit from. That would be optimally efficient for this country as a whole.
This is not quite accurate. Sure, if you're going into business/law/medicine and expect to stay on the East Coast it's probably a huge boon. Not so much if you're going into physical therapy or making telescope mirrors because they don't offer those majors. And the further away from the East Coast you get, the less people tend to care about the Ivies.
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Old 05-19-2019, 08:04 AM
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There's huge problems with this. The primary one is that it screws over any kid who's parent's are the poorest family in a nice neighborhood, or who are one of those parents who kicks them out at 18 with no further support.

In addition it creates an incentive to game the system - I can think of a number of reasonably straightforward tricks to this. Transfer senior year to a much poorer high school. Rent an apartment in a poor area and use it as the official address for the SAT. Actual household income is not being checked I don't think, the FAFSA has that disclosure but this is earlier in the process.

On top of all this, the metrics are secret - supposedly to prevent gaming the system. Except this means that erroneous information can easily be used in someone's "adversity report" and used to create a false score.
This would not be that easy, and almost certainly never worth the bother. Household income is known to admissions committees early in the process, they see your transcript so they know if you transfer, they work the same region for years, so they would know the schools you transferred from and to, they know your "actual" address.

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To step back and take a broader view - the actual problem here is that it's worth a lot to someone's future career prospects to have attended a school with limited slots. We have 370 million Americans and only a small number of them will ever get to attend an elite college in their lifetime. This seems inefficient for a number of ways - the 30k feet view is that every citizen with the capacity should be able to receive the best education they will benefit from. That would be optimally efficient for this country as a whole.
This I agree with.

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This is like the difference between writing a letter to a potential lender swearing you will pay them back and claiming you paid previous debts back and a credit report. Obviously a credit report prepared by a neutral third party is seen as a far more trustworthy metric. The problem with this adversity score is just like a credit file, many files will have errors in them- except the college board wants to keep their metric secret.

Furthermore, the metric is flawed. I have a friend who works a job paying 10 bucks an hour with 30k in available credit. Yet if bill gates had never borrowed money in his life, he would not be able to get more than a $1000 starter credit card.
This is not true. Understand, at the selective schools, admissions officers work regions and they are familiar with the individual schools/programs in their area. They spend the fall traveling, visiting these schools. They know the demographics, the teachers, etc. To help with this, schools provide profiles that give an overview of the program. It's not a matter of admissions officers sitting in an Ivory Tower reading every application like a blank slate. They are not at all analogous to a credit card company reviewing a Visa application.

The one place where I think this may have an impact is for kids applying from mediocre schools that almost never have students apply to selective schools and where the counselors are so inexperienced or inept that they send in a generic form letter for their recommendation and have no profile. In these cases, it might provide context. But it's not going to replace the context they already understand.

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This is not quite accurate. Sure, if you're going into business/law/medicine and expect to stay on the East Coast it's probably a huge boon. Not so much if you're going into physical therapy or making telescope mirrors because they don't offer those majors. And the further away from the East Coast you get, the less people tend to care about the Ivies.
There's a lot of selective and highly selective ground in between "Ivy" and "Local Regional". And there are real advantages (not least of which is substantial financial aid) that comes from getting into a school more selective than your local regional university.
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Old 05-19-2019, 08:18 AM
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Yes, there are the Public Ivies.

Also, why do you assume that A) everybody wants to go to an Ivy, or that B) a non-Ivy isn't good enough for what the person wants to do? Why isn't ASU or the University of South Dakota a good choice for teachers, nurses or hotel managers? Also, people going to lowly Miami University of Ohio, the University of Wisconsin -Madison (which I have seen listed as both a Public Ivy and almost a Public Ivy) and Texas A & M have all spawned more that one Fortune 500 CEO.

But mostly I think it you are not an Easy Coaster - I am a Midwesterner - you just don't see the huge mystique about the Ivies. Sure, some of their programs are good but you can still get a damned good degree in Archaeology at the University of Arizpna.
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Old 05-19-2019, 09:26 AM
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Yes, there are the Public Ivies.

Also, why do you assume that A) everybody wants to go to an Ivy, or that B) a non-Ivy isn't good enough for what the person wants to do? Why isn't ASU or the University of South Dakota a good choice for teachers, nurses or hotel managers? Also, people going to lowly Miami University of Ohio, the University of Wisconsin -Madison (which I have seen listed as both a Public Ivy and almost a Public Ivy) and Texas A & M have all spawned more that one Fortune 500 CEO.

But mostly I think it you are not an Easy Coaster - I am a Midwesterner - you just don't see the huge mystique about the Ivies. Sure, some of their programs are good but you can still get a damned good degree in Archaeology at the University of Arizpna.
Again, it's not just a matter of "Ivys" or "Public Ivys". There are tons and tons of schools that are in the middle, there--many of them in the Midwest. Schools like Notre Dame, UChicago, Northwestern, Case Western, Carnegie Mellon, WashU and LACs like Grinnell, Oberlin, Carleton, etc. All those are highly competitive programs that draw heavily from the Midwest. None are members of the Ivy League, but some are more competitive than most of the Ivy League schools.

I'm certainly not arguing that you can't get a good education at a mid-ranked public college (though your examples are mixed--TAMU is very highly ranked--and extremely selective if you aren't an auto-admit). It absolutely is. But there are also lots of advantages to highly selective schools, not least of which is that they are often significantly cheaper for the student--especially the student likely to be helped by this "adversity score".

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Old 05-19-2019, 10:23 AM
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This would not be that easy, and almost certainly never worth the bother. Household income is known to admissions committees early in the process, they see your transcript so they know if you transfer, they work the same region for years, so they would know the schools you transferred from and to, they know your "actual" address.


This is not true. Understand, at the selective schools, admissions officers work regions and they are familiar with the individual schools/programs in their area. They spend the fall traveling, visiting these schools. They know the demographics, the teachers, etc. To help with this, schools provide profiles that give an overview of the program. It's not a matter of admissions officers sitting in an Ivory Tower reading every application like a blank slate. They are not at all analogous to a credit card company reviewing a Visa application.
To be fair, a credit card company has an actual reason to be accountable. They make money when they lend to people who will usually pay them back with interest, and lose money when they lend it to people who won't. So they use systems and metrics that have actual predictive power - if there is no statistical correlation between a metric and payback rates, they won't use it.

A "highly selective" college doesn't have this kind of hard and fast feedback. There is probably not a whole lot of difference for a highly selective school in predicted GPAs and graduation rates between the 1000 students they accepted and the second place 1000 group they rejected. Also a school has different metrics to be accountable to - it doesn't actually matter if they accept slightly inferior students by using a false metric. What actually matters for a school is maintaining their brand reputation and of course giving special admits to the children of wealthy donors.

So I'm a bit skeptical it's this exhaustive and the adcoms have this kind of knowledge most of the time. It's not only questionably feasible - there are thousands of public high schools, and you're describing an algorithm where every highly selective school knows all of them - or just flat ignores applications from students not coming from a small set of schools and neighborhoods that they know. But it's not something that pays rent. For instance, a high SAT score makes the brand of a highly selective school apply stronger. More racial diversity makes the brand appear more fair. These are the kind of things a highly selective school is going to benefit from.

A simpler metric would be to just look at all the things that benefit the brand of themselves, and add them up with a weighting system. This produces a number, rank the applicants in order then.

Last edited by SamuelA; 05-19-2019 at 10:26 AM.
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Old 05-19-2019, 12:31 PM
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To be fair, a credit card company has an actual reason to be accountable. They make money when they lend to people who will usually pay them back with interest, and lose money when they lend it to people who won't. So they use systems and metrics that have actual predictive power - if there is no statistical correlation between a metric and payback rates, they won't use it.

A "highly selective" college doesn't have this kind of hard and fast feedback. There is probably not a whole lot of difference for a highly selective school in predicted GPAs and graduation rates between the 1000 students they accepted and the second place 1000 group they rejected. Also a school has different metrics to be accountable to - it doesn't actually matter if they accept slightly inferior students by using a false metric. What actually matters for a school is maintaining their brand reputation and of course giving special admits to the children of wealthy donors.
I would agree with this, though I would add "perpetuate the culture of the school/institutional vision" as an important goal.

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So I'm a bit skeptical it's this exhaustive and the adcoms have this kind of knowledge most of the time. It's not only questionably feasible - there are thousands of public high schools, and you're describing an algorithm where every highly selective school knows all of them - or just flat ignores applications from students not coming from a small set of schools and neighborhoods that they know.
One, there are lots of admissions officers. DFW is a region, not "Texas". Two, the vast majority of applications come from a pretty small set of schools. There are lots and lots of schools where maybe 1-3 kids a year apply to private universities--and even then, they often have a small set that, for whatever reason, their kids apply to (usually because that's where siblings and friends applied to). So after a year in a region, you know big ones, and you just have to research/learn about the rest. Schools provide profiles and recs provide information, and once you have learned about schools in general, it's pretty simple to put together the pieces. I have on many occasions had conversations with admissions officers who worked my region and been startled with how well they understood the schools and programs in a state very far away.

I did say, and I stand by, that there are schools that have no profile and a terrible counselor and so Admissions officers really have no clue. This doesn't mean they throw out the app--it just means the kid doesn't get the benefit that context might have provided. This score may help those kids.


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But it's not something that pays rent. For instance, a high SAT score makes the brand of a highly selective school apply stronger. More racial diversity makes the brand appear more fair. These are the kind of things a highly selective school is going to benefit from.

A simpler metric would be to just look at all the things that benefit the brand of themselves, and add them up with a weighting system. This produces a number, rank the applicants in order then.
Admissions officers want to build classes that are greater than the sum of their parts. You want some of everything, not the maximum of anything. They use grades and test scores to cut the application pool down to a manageable size, and then it's a huge dynamic thing, trying to hit dozens of goals in different ways. It's not about a constructing a list to work down. This is why waitlists don't have an order: when a kid doesn't yield, they have to go looking for one that fills the same slots--and while diversity is part of that, so is ability to pay (can't replace a full-pay with a need financial aid kid), geographical origin, extracurricular talents, etc.
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Old 05-19-2019, 07:05 PM
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Sounds like a good way to get kids into schools where they will not do well.
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Old 05-19-2019, 07:12 PM
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Sounds like a good way to get kids into schools where they will not do well.
SAT isn't very predictive. It has only weak correlation with "how well" a kid will do in a particular school. The reason why selective colleges try to find students with the highest SAT scores is to maintain their brand reputation as a "highly selective" school.
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Old 05-19-2019, 07:30 PM
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Sounds like a good way to get kids into schools where they will not do well.
SamuelA is right. SATs are not terribly predictive, and they are least predictive for kids with a high "environmental context" score--poor kids in bad schools. Well-off kids in great schools are being prepped for the SAT in their rigorous classes, which are aligned to the skills the SAT teaches. They have professional tutors. They have parents and teachers who help them use their PSAT -- which they take--report to identify specific skill gaps to remediate. They retest. The kid who has none of that but is still within a 100 points of the ones who do--that kid is perfectly capable.

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Old 05-20-2019, 06:48 AM
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SAT isn't very predictive. It has only weak correlation with "how well" a kid will do in a particular school. The reason why selective colleges try to find students with the highest SAT scores is to maintain their brand reputation as a "highly selective" school.
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SamuelA is right. SATs are not terribly predictive, and they are least predictive for kids with a high "environmental context" score--poor kids in bad schools. Well-off kids in great schools are being prepped for the SAT in their rigorous classes, which are aligned to the skills the SAT teaches. They have professional tutors. They have parents and teachers who help them use their PSAT -- which they take--report to identify specific skill gaps to remediate. They retest. The kid who has none of that but is still within a 100 points of the ones who do--that kid is perfectly capable
Could it be that after many years of education in well-functioning public schools and the added instruction that high income students participate in, that they are better prepared for college success? Seems odd that advocates of public schooling would argue that many years in adverse learning conditions would have no impact on a college students’ academic preparedness.

Capability is another ball game. Of course they are capable of achieving what rich kids achieve if they had those benefits. The thing is, they did not have those benefits. Admitting them to a school does not sprinkle preparedness dust on them. IMO they should start at a college on their level and level up as they enter the final years of undergrad or wait until grad school.

You say there is no correlation. Perhaps the researchers you are thinking of did some shoddy analysis in search of a desired outcome. We know, and you admit, that low income students have lower SAT scores. We also know that the dropout rate for low income students is much higher. This is probably due to “adverse” conditions, but the fact remains. If you admit more students with a high adversity score, you will be admitting students you know will be more likely to drop out.

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Old 05-20-2019, 09:42 AM
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This is not true. Very selective and highly selective colleges are very good and supporting and developing the students they have: they typically have an 85-90% 4-year graduation rate. There are two reasons for this:

1) They have great systems in place to develop students. Writing labs, generous office hours, tutors, etc. These systems have been in place for time immemorial because they've always taken kids who need support--"development" kids (donors/future donors); athletes; feeder schools; kids with extraordinary talents and extraordinary gaps. I have sent many kids who had "gaps" in their skill set but were mostly strong, and they have always received the support they needed to develop the skills they needed to catch up. No need to wait till grad school.

2) There is a lot of context for the slightly lower score, and they pay attention to it. When you have a kid whose score is 100 points lower than what you'd expect from an upper-class kid in a supportive environment, you look at everything else. You notice he took it once, and his score is higher than that other kid's first attempt. You notice that he's ranked very highly, so he is getting the most out the curriculum available to him. You have a rec letter that says before him, no one had passed the AP Calc exam in years because the teacher is ineffective, and not only did he self-study to a 5, 2 other kids got a 3 and it's widely believed by faculty and students that it's because this kid ended up effectively teaching the class by the end of the year. You see he's worked the same job for two years to help pay for his own expenses, and in that time, he's become front-end supervisor and gotten employee of the month 3 times. All that together shows a kid who is absolutely capable of doing the work, and while there may be gaps, he has the work ethic and ambition to take advantage of all the support structures available to make sure he catches up.

Kids who undermatch--who go to a school where they are comfortably qualified--are less likely to graduate on time. Putting a student in a challenging school with more resources to support him seems to be the best way to make sure he is developed to his full capacity.
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Old 05-20-2019, 10:37 AM
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This is not true. Very selective and highly selective colleges are very good and supporting and developing the students they have: they typically have an 85-90% 4-year graduation rate. There are two reasons for this:

1) They have great systems in place to develop students. Writing labs, generous office hours, tutors, etc. These systems have been in place for time immemorial because they've always taken kids who need support--"development" kids (donors/future donors); athletes; feeder schools; kids with extraordinary talents and extraordinary gaps. I have sent many kids who had "gaps" in their skill set but were mostly strong, and they have always received the support they needed to develop the skills they needed to catch up. No need to wait till grad school.

2) There is a lot of context for the slightly lower score, and they pay attention to it. When you have a kid whose score is 100 points lower than what you'd expect from an upper-class kid in a supportive environment, you look at everything else. You notice he took it once, and his score is higher than that other kid's first attempt. You notice that he's ranked very highly, so he is getting the most out the curriculum available to him. You have a rec letter that says before him, no one had passed the AP Calc exam in years because the teacher is ineffective, and not only did he self-study to a 5, 2 other kids got a 3 and it's widely believed by faculty and students that it's because this kid ended up effectively teaching the class by the end of the year. You see he's worked the same job for two years to help pay for his own expenses, and in that time, he's become front-end supervisor and gotten employee of the month 3 times. All that together shows a kid who is absolutely capable of doing the work, and while there may be gaps, he has the work ethic and ambition to take advantage of all the support structures available to make sure he catches up.

Kids who undermatch--who go to a school where they are comfortably qualified--are less likely to graduate on time. Putting a student in a challenging school with more resources to support him seems to be the best way to make sure he is developed to his full capacity.
Yes that may be. Unfortunately, having an adversity score does not repair US education. The fact remains that low income students drop out like crazy. Any change that results in more of them being accepted will lead to an increase in dropouts or a dumbing down of content.

The choice isn’t “adversity score with extra help” vs. “no adversity score”. The choice is adversity score vs no adversity score, with everything else remaining constant.

Also, all of the wonderful criteria you listed will not be captured by this adversity score. There is nothing in this score that signals the merit or capability of an individual student. This score will be a tool for lazy admissions decisions.
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Old 05-20-2019, 10:46 AM
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I don't think it will be terribly useful, no, except in the case of a kid from a school that rarely or never sends applications to a certain institution: it may serve as a flag to then go look at the application through a different lens--to go looking to those things that do signal merit from a kid with few opportunities.

That said, the schools that low-income students are dropping out of are NOT, largely, the ones that care about SAT scores. They drop out of 2-year colleges, regional public universities, and for-profit schools at astronomically higher rates than they do from state flagships and selective private schools. This includes students who would have been much more successful at a more selective school. I do this professionally, and it is absolutely possible for a kid to be more prepared for and do better at Harvard than they would at a community college.
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Old 05-20-2019, 10:54 AM
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If the test is shown to be unfair due to economic circumstances then it is unfair. even if they change the unfair test to another unfair test it is in the same category. So it doesn't matter a hell of beans.
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