New Trier Superintendent Paul Sally reprimanded a school guidance counselor for statements attributed to him in a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) story concerning plans by the College Board to apply an “adversity score” to all children taking the SAT college entrance exam. The new scores are a misguided attempt “to level the socioeconomic field,” a follow-up opinion piece by the Journal’s editorial board said.
In a May 16 note to parents, Sally wrote that James Conroy, director of college counseling at the school, was “expressing an opinion that elite colleges already are seeking diversity and that this measure [the adversity score] could disadvantage white and affluent students.”
“This statement does not align with our values, contradicts our commitment to educational equity, and is counter to our public statements supporting equitable educational opportunities at both the K-12 and post-secondary levels,” Sally continued.
Superintendent Paul Sally | New Trier High School
Conroy told the paper that the focus on diversity by elite colleges is already high and the adversity score would magnify that. Conroy could have gone further and said what Sally implied he did: that the new score disadvantages affluent, and even middle-class, white students, the Journal’s May 16 editorial shows.
“Most colleges, especially the higher-ranked, already discount student privilege and handicap for race and socioeconomic status,” the Journal said. “In 2009 a Princeton sociologist studied 10 highly selective colleges and found that white applicants would have to score 310 points higher than blacks and 130 points higher than Hispanics to have the same odds of admission.”
The new score will also make college admissions even less transparent, the Journal said; it will be based on Census and “proprietary College Board data.” Middle-class families who work hard to move to neighborhoods with better schools or to pay to send their children to private schools would be considered privileged under the new scoring system.
The College Board could continue this discrimination against whites in the face of a “possible legal ban on race-based preferences" – the Journal noted that California and Michigan prohibit colleges from considering race in admissions, and the U.S. Supreme Court could forbid racial preferences entirely in the next few years.
“Colleges could then use the adversity score as an alternative or proxy for race since many of its 15 variables [used in the scoring] strongly correlate with minority backgrounds," the Journal said. "So they could continue to discriminate discretely without proof that’s what they are doing since the adversity scores are calculated by a third-party algorithm they don’t control.”
“The adversity score looks like a way to undermine one of the last objective measures of academic merit. No wonder people are cynical about college admissions.”