My question:
Who appointed or voted for the College Board to have an “unhealthy power over college admissions,” to quote Ms. Apodaca, and to continue to mess with our public schools? Why do they have all that power? And, why do we continue to allow them such unfettered leeway?

I’m struck by Ms. Apodaca’s statement that [the adversity index] is a desperate, cynical attempt by this company to stay relevant and maintain its unhealthy power over college admissions.

It may well be.

As I see it and as I’ve written many times, in the name of “good, equitable, fair, and maybe even positive ideas,” the powerful College Board has managed to ruin accommodations policies on the SAT and for our schools. What does the score mean if someone takes the same test with twice as much time as others get–and nobody knows! That’s their policy–and it’s powerful. Thus, it’s disheartening for teachers to uphold their honest grading policy when the big guys won’t do that. Second, as I see it, the College Board also has–in too many ways–set the curriculum for our PUBLIC schools–by what they decide to test on any given day. They decide and we sneeze. And third, now this? A flawed attempt to fix a real real world issue of inequality.

Did you vote for them? Did you appoint them? I know that I didn’t.

Here’s George F. Will’s column, June 7, 2019.

I’ve put in BOLD my questions for starters.

1. Who voted for the College Board to be our “earnest improvers?”
2. Who picked them to “shape th world of social inertia?”
3. Who is promoting their latest attempt to keep the SAT relevant–in an increasingly diverse world (where many colleges are now test optional) that has made that test “descreasingly important?”

The College Board’s intrusion into our schools is very concerning. They have already ruined the accommodations policy–so that tests may not even be standardized! They have influenced to a great degree what is taught in our high schools. And now this.

Who voted for them? Who appointed them? I sure didn’t!

The SAT’s new ‘adversity index’ is another step down the path of identity politics

The earnest improvers at the College Board, which administers the SAT, should ponder Abraham Maslow’s law of the instrument. In 1966, Maslow, a psychologist, said essentially this: If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The College Board wants to solve a complex social problem that it and its test are unsuited to solve.

The College Board has embraced a dubious idea that might have the beneficial effect of prompting college admissions officers to think of better ideas for broadening their pool of applicants. The idea is to add to the scores of some test-takers an “environmental context” bonus. Strangely, board president David Coleman told the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger that this is not, as the media has named it, an “adversity index.” But it is: It purports to measure 15 factors (e.g., poverty or food-stamp eligibility, crime rates, disorderly schools, broken families, families with education deficits, etc.) where these test-takers are situated. Coleman more convincingly says to the New York Times: “This is about finding young people who do a great deal with what they’ve been given.”

Perhaps the board’s evident discomfort with the label “adversity score” is because its more benign-sounding “environmental context” gives a social-science patina to the obverse of a category (and political accusation) currently in vogue, that of “privilege.” By whatever name, however, the SAT’s new metric is another step down the path of identity politics, assigning applicants to groups and categories, and another step away from evaluating individuals individually. But if the adversity metric becomes a substitute for schools emphasizing race, this will be an improvement on explicit racial categories that become implicit quotas.

The SAT was created partly to solve the problem of inequitable standards in college admissions. They too often rewarded nonacademic attributes (e.g., “legacies” — the children of alumni). And they facilitated the intergenerational transmission of inherited privileges. Most importantly, they were used to disfavor certain groups, particularly Jews.

By making an objective — meaning standardized — test one component of schools’ assessments of applicants, it advanced the American ideal of a meritocracy open to all talents. However, it has always been the schools’ prerogative to decide the importance of the SAT component relative to others. And as “diversity” (understood in various ways) becomes an increasing preoccupation of schools, the SAT becomes decreasingly important.

Any adversity index derived from this or that social “context,” however refined, will be an extremely crude instrument for measuring — guessing, actually — the academic prospects of individuals in those contexts. It might, however, be a good gauge of character. Physicists speak of the “escape velocity” of particles circling in an orbit. Perhaps the adversity index can indicate individuals who, by their resilience, have achieved velocity out of challenging social environments.

But the SAT is a flimsy tool for shaping the world of social inertia. Articulate, confident parents from the professions will transmit cultural advantages to their children — advantages that, as the SAT will record them, are apt to dwarf “adversity” bonuses. As Andrew Ferguson, author of the grimly hilarious “Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College,” says, America’s least diverse classes are SAT-prep classes.

The Chicago Tribune warns, plausibly, that the “secret-sauce” of the SAT’s adversity score — schools will know it, applicants will not — will “breed more public mistrust” of colleges’ admissions processes. But calling, as the Tribune does, for more “transparency” implies that the more admissions’ criteria are made public, the better. However, private deliberations and criteria about applicants protect the applicants’ privacy interests.

Furthermore, asserting a public interest in maximum transparency encourages government supervision of — and the inevitable shrinking of — schools’ discretion in shaping their student bodies and ensuring that some cohorts are not largely excluded.

Unquestionably, such discretion often is employed in unsavory ways to serve academia’s fluctuating diversity obsessions, some of which contravene common understandings of equity and perhaps civil rights laws and norms. Soon a Boston court will render a decision, probably destined for Supreme Court review, in the case concerning Harvard’s “holistic” metrics, beyond “objective” ones (secondary school transcripts, standardized tests), for — it is alleged — the purpose of restricting the admission of Asian Americans. They, like the Jews whose academic proficiency was a “problem” eight decades ago, often come from family cultures that stress academic attainments.

Caution, however, is in order. Further breaking higher education to the saddle of the state is an imprudent (and, which is much the same thing, unconservative) objective.

I read, with great interest, the Education Week Blog by Christina Samuels,

The blog summarizes a report by the National Center for Learning Disabilities and Understood– an advocacy group for students with learning disabilities. The report concludes that most general education teachers feel unprepared to teach students with disabilities and that most of them want more training.

That may be all well and good, BUT to get a full picture of teachers and their needs that can actually help our schools and students, we need to hear directly from general education researchers and advocates about this vital issue–not just from special educaiton players. Do general education teachers want more training? Do they support the inclusion effort? Do they believe that approach is the way to proceed for most or all students? Etc. Many important questions are left on the table when research does not take a wide enough view of the situation.

Who– besides learning disablity groups and their advocates– is doing research about teacher preparedness to teach ALL students— from the most needy (including special education students) to the most advanced and all in between? That research needs to be understood. We need to hear from them.

We need a full picture. Without that, we may again move to solve the wrong questions.