by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Last week I lamented that the College Board’s new practice of assigning applicants an “adversity score” will perpetuate a widespread myth — that the SAT is biased against students from poor or minority backgrounds. SAT scores predict college performance for underprivileged students about as well as they do for everyone else. To the extent there is a difference, the College Board’s own data show that a high adversity score is associated with slightly lower college grades than testing would predict. The idea that the SAT scores of high-adversity applicants need to be corrected upward to ensure a merit-based system is wrong.
Richard Kahlenberg is apparently not familiar with this evidence. Writing for The Atlantic, he argues that the adversity score is “a quantitative counterpoint to the SAT” that will improve merit-based admissions:
“…[An] adversity score offers colleges some way to acknowledge what everyone knows: A student who scored 1200 on the SAT despite having grown up in a high-crime neighborhood and attending high-poverty schools has more long-run potential than a student who earned 1200 while having access to the best private schools and paid tutors.”
Kahlenberg supports this claim not with data, but only with the insistence that “everyone knows” it’s true. In reality, the claim is too vague to evaluate. What does “long-run potential” mean? It cannot mean college performance, because we know that the SAT predicts about as well for the underprivileged as it does for the privileged. If anything, the underprivileged perform below expectations, not above.