Grad season has wound down. Completing high school or further studies, millions across America donned the traditional caps and gowns to signify their graduation.
For those completing high school, the arduous task of planning their next step is in place, or some semblance of a plan worked out. Some step full-time in the working world. Others will seek training in specialized fields, join are armed forces, with many seeking to further their education at some form of college or university.
Those seeking further education have had to navigate a path through a college admission process. Students create resumes of sorts to highlight their participation in the community, participation in extracurricular activities, and draw attention to any positions of leadership.
Another important component of college admission is a student’s performance on standardized tests. Tests such as the ACT and SAT have long been fixtures across America as a key part of showing a student’s aptitude. Measuring a student’s readiness for college and drive to succeed is a difficult task. Comparing students and environments adds complexity to the challenge.
On May 16, the College Board, which oversees the SAT exam, decided to dispense their own version of social justice. A CBS News story that day detailed the plan. The College Board implemented an “Overall Disadvantage Level,” commonly known as an “adversity score.” The changes will be included in a student’s “Environment Context Dashboard.” Political correctness run amok.
The story reported the “adversity score” is calculated using factors from neighborhood environment, family environment and high school environment. “Each of the three categories has five sub-indicators that are indexed in calculating each student’s adversity score. Neighborhood environment will take into account crime rate, poverty rate, housing values and vacancy rate. Family environment will assess what the median income is of where the student’s family is from; whether the student is from a single-parent household; the educational level of the parents; and whether English is a second language. High school environment will look at factors such as curriculum rigor, free-lunch rate and AP class opportunities. Together these factors will calculate an individual’s adversity score on a scale of one to 100. A score of 50 is considered “average.” Anything above 50 proves “hardship” while anything below 50 is considered “privilege.”
The story’s headline literally includes the phrase “in bid to level playing field.” This is academia’s version of socialism. It is an effort to boost the test scores of those who ostensibly have been raised in more challenging environments, and to penalize those who have grown up with more structure.
Various forms and incarnations of the social justice platform are pervasive in our society. The premise of “social justice” is to seek out victimhood status for those who seek to place blame or responsibility on others. You are no longer responsible for your own destiny. If you fail to achieve your dreams, someone else is to blame.
There is no doubt that many face hurdles beyond their own control. America still experiences generational poverty and other challenges, but it is our own responsibility to do the best with what we are given.
Critics of the plan are widespread, including a June 14 Washington Post editorial asking the salient question about why disabilities aren’t included in the “adversity score.”
What about the environment the kid experienced, outside of statistical factors? If kids got extra points for being the one left out, and someone no one wanted around, my SAT scores would have gone through the roof. While I have been blessed in many ways, I think I missed the day where my “white privilege” was being handed out. Must not have gotten the memo.
What’s to stop those who would exploit the system from “showing” their address in a challenged neighborhood? What about the kid who lived in a very challenging environment their whole lives, but by graduation time, the family was in a better situation, and had moved to a nicer neighborhood?
This is opening Pandora’s Box. This is the faculty lounge trying to right all society’s ills for us, while not understanding life’s complexities. This form of social justice will undoubtedly backfire.
News flash. Life is not always fair. It’s not about a “level playing field.” In a society that fosters and promotes economic mobility, and can reward individual effort, a “level playing field” will never exist, and it should not. Innovation and seeking success are still important in America.
Idealistic efforts like that of the College Board seek to perpetuate stereotypes and victimhood status for many. Equality of outcomes can’t be legislated. Increasing measures meant to “level the playing field” always result in an erosion of personal liberty. Let’s “pass” on taking on the new SAT.
Scott Frostman lives in Baraboo and has roots throughout Wisconsin. He believes
anyone can make a difference
and can be reached at
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