College Board CEO tries to defend SAT ‘adversity score’ as a way to tell poor people, ‘we see you’

(Video screenshot)

During an appearance Friday on Fox News, College Board CEO David Coleman tried to defend the non-profit’s recently unveiled and widely criticized so-called “adversity score.”

He first pushed back against the “adversity score” moniker, claiming that there’s no new score, per se, but rather an attempt to provide some “general background information.”

“Let’s take a young woman from Mississippi, a college partner that we’re working with,” he said on FNC’s “America’s Newsroom.” “Looked at her score, and on average was about the same as other applicants for the college. And she happens to be a young woman in a rural school.”

“And then they looked at the context. They looked at how did that SAT score compare to other students in the school. And she was 400 points higher. They then saw … that her neighborhood and her school doesn’t have any advanced opportunities.”


This confused host Sandra Smith. Like others, she’d presumed the “adversity score” would function just like affirmative action, in that it’d effectively boost or reduce the SAT scores of students based on how much or how little so-called privilege they possess.

According to The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story earlier this week, the very goal of this new tool is essentially to allow schools to continue judging students by their race, albeit in a surreptitious fashion that’d be harder to argue against in a legal court of law.

“The purpose is to get to race without using race,” Anthony Carnevale, the director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, bluntly said to the Journal.

As it stands, several schools across the nation have faced lawsuits because of their affirmative action policies. These policies benefit black and Hispanic students at the expense of whites and Asians. Were the College Board to move forward with this plan, such schools could bypass any potential litigation.

How so? Well, the theory is rooted in the bigoted assumption is that black and Hispanic students live in poorer neighborhoods and have less-educated parents.

“I’m sorry for the confusion,” Coleman continued Friday. “I’m saying colleges get a context. We don’t change the SAT score. It’s not a new score. It’s a general context in which to look at scores. If you look at a test score alone but don’t know she was 400 points higher than all her peers, you might not see how exceptional her achievement was. You might miss her resourcefulness.”

“Only when you look at a score in context can you see that, despite growing up in a more impoverished neighborhood with less resources, she’s done so well.”

This background information will reportedly be displayed to colleges in what’s being called an “environmental context dashboard.” It will then be up to individual colleges to decide whether or not to weigh this information when deciding if they should accept a certain student.

“My sense is that they’re looking for people who distinguish themselves. Sadly in this country today, adversity is fairly widespread. All the kids at the school will have the same ranking for their school, so it’s not an individual measure. … But when you look at her, it’s her performance on the SAT, her performance in that context that’s going to matter.”

Listen to the rest of the discussion below:

But like with any other left-wing plan ostensibly designed to make life more fair, this “environmental context dashboard” is already riddled with an abundance of problems.

For one, despite Coleman’s description of the “adversity score” as just an “environmental context dashboard,” he admitted to Smith that this dashboard will be based on 15 measurements, none of which he or the board are willing to publicly share.

“That certainly can’t cover all the adversity that a student faces. You may not know what someone goes through on a daily basis. That’s not being provided. That person might live in a very rich town with a very high-level public school system,” Smith noted.

The worry is that students will automatically be judged negatively for attending high-quality schools. In other words, students may wind up being penalized for having good parents who didn’t mind spending the money and resources necessary to give their children the best.

But according to Coleman, this is no big deal because each student will have the chance to tell his or her story via the essay portion of the SATs …

“That’s why there’s room for the essay and students providing their own information,” he said.

He added that this program is currently being tested by 50 colleges. This spurred Smith into asking why the College Board doesn’t just eliminate the SATs, period, given the increasing criticism the tests have faced for the “regressive” way in which they judge students.

“Let’s talk about the girl in Mississippi who did so well. We see her because she achieved so much, because she’s accomplished something in amazing. But it’s more amazing in context,” he said.

“One thing we’re trying to do with the new tool is to say to families who grew up with a lot less, who were given a lot less in this world, that they too have a shot. All we’re trying to say if you distinguish yourself by performing well in demanding circumstances, we see you.”



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Vivek Saxena


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