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Caseythoughts You may have heard or read a news story the past couple of days about new efforts to eliminate race in college admissions, in the midst of several lawsuits by Asian students working their way through the courts. Once again, an effort is being made by certain entities to somehow make race irrelevant in an attempt to erase over four hundred years of slavery and discrimination in all aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, you may be disturbed to find out the newest efforts that will affect your children's academic pursuits. In a nutshell, the SAT test will now have a non-academic factor in it to try to 'level' the playing field in college admissions. This is the way it works and is currently in place at one hundred fifty institutions of higher learning this fall.

In an effort to capture a student's social and economic background (are these the new buzzwords for established and verifiable academic performance and achievement?) the College Board who administers the SAT will now be using fifteen factors including neighborhood crime rates, households in poverty, households receiving food stamps, single parent families, rental housing units, vacant housing units, adults with non-professional jobs, unemployed, and other factors in a school district in a rating system incorporated into the SAT score to be perused by the college's admission office.

The score which goes on a scale of 1-100 will come up on what the college admissions office will be using called the 'Environmental Context Dashboard' which shows not only the SAT scores but also the above indicators for 'wealth and opportunity' of the prospective student. This is called the 'Overall Disadvantage Level' of the student. A score of 50, as you might assume, is 'average', while a number above 50 designates 'hardship' and a number below this indicates 'privilege'.

The College Board has declined to state how it calculates the score or weighs the factors. Its sources are not only the U.S.census, but they refuse to disclose their other sources. Proprietary information, don't ya know.

One hundred fifty institutions will be using the new 'dashboard' (re: Overall Disadvantage Level') when looking at admissions this fall, and widespread usage in the country next year.

If I am interpreting this correctly, you as a parent of a teenager who will be vying for an admission spot (especially in what is considered an 'elite' school) should take into consideration this fact: there will be a very low 'adversity' score for Tompkins County high school students. My guess is that your child's SAT score will be saddled in one aspect with a 'privileged' factor if the college he or she aspires to matriculate at begins using this system, or already plans on using it this autumn. Beware, Tompkins County parents. This is not a test.

OK, a couple of non-disputable facts that continue to perplex educators and politicians, and also jam up our courts: white students score 177 points higher than black students and 133 points higher than Hispanic students in 2018 SAT results. Asian students, you ask? 100 points higher than white students.

Is a 'disadvantage' factor here to blame for these discrepancies? Possibly, to an extent, but the reality is that courts may very well decide that 'race' is supposed to be a non-factor in admissions decisions. Something tells me that academia is scrambling for some kind of cover so they can continue to work on the race factor which continues to plague America and its economic, educational and social strata, when it seems all other efforts have ended in failure, and continues to bedevil our country.

But I'll repeat: Tompkins County's parents may very well realize that 'equality of opportunity' may be 'pie' and there are only so many slots/slices in a college freshman class/pie. Being designated by this farcical 'dashboard rating' as a privileged student is going to be another blow at our already hobbled, falling behind and beleaguered academic system. And outstanding school systems as ours in Tompkins County will very well suffer.

When I was in high school (my math teacher was a very grouchy T. Rex) the SAT was only a part of your admission process. The schools you applied to (in my case, Villanova, Temple and the University of Scranton) made it clear that the admissions process also placed a high level of trust in extra-curricular activities, clubs, sports and teacher recommendations as well as actual grade performance and standardized tests. It may have been a flawed process (name one process of our modern world which isn't flawed) and yes, I guess I was 'privileged' by today's standards (my parents would deny this), but why should poverty, crime levels and other neighborhood issues from proprietary sources be considered a way to gerrymander a college's freshman class and defy the logic of standardized testing as one of many factors to determine potential academic success?

And, attack me if you wish, but gerrymander is now a word/concept that has now become illegal in attempting to equalize 'outcome' when all we have been guaranteed was 'equality of opportunity'. If gerrymandering is a political crime (and it is, especially now that the Supreme Court has finally decided to wade into the political aspect of it, only previously jumping in when race was involved) then why is a form of academic gerrymandering acceptable in the hallowed halls of academia? Is it a mysterious algorithm that will determine the makeup of a freshman class? Or is it a contingent of educators at the College Board who may be using the 'black box' concept to say: "Put your problem in this black box, and the answer will come out on the other side. And don't ask stupid questions; we're getting paid big bucks to solve the race problem in America, and we know what's best and we know what we're doing."

Meanwhile, SAT scores have been jiggered over the years to accommodate the lowering of teaching standards in our high schools. Colleges continue to be accused of racism and some critics argue (with interesting facts and numbers) that our college grads can't hold a candle to what so-called 'foreign' students are able to accomplish (and increasing the competition with American high-tech students with higher numbers of H2B visas), beating us at our own game while we wring our hands and think its about race, or poverty, or perceived privilege, when in many cases we appear to not understand it could be a problem of continued lowering of standards and expectations.

I've a wacky idea: I think that we don't necessarily get bent out of shape about being told we are above or below a 'line' that is acceptable, admissible, or whatever. I think we really object to being 'ranked". I know if I qualify to join or enter a certain unit of society, schooling, or whatever, but I don't like being told someone is 'more' qualified than me. So, if we were all on the same sheet of music ("OK, here's the line of admission: everyone above a certain 'line' of all the qualifying factors is eligible, including SAT scores, say, above 1000, faculty recommendations, clubs, extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, and the 'dashboard' number") then every prospective applying student would receive a number. We're learning from the ultimate level playing field practitioner, here, which is The Selective Service. All these numbers are thrown in a big rotating basket/barrel (remember, guys and gals, the draft lottery on TV?) and if there's 1000 slots at, say, Whatsamattah U.,, then the first 1000 numbers drawn at random get to enter the freshman class, if they so choose. Declines will be replaced by the next numbers randomly picked. If your number is picked, then you get to apply for financial aid, and there, of course, poverty and disadvantage can faithfully legally and ethically come into play, including that 'Overall Disadvantage Level' which colleges seem to frequently ignore by using the phrase 'need blind'.

Tell me, what's wrong with this picture? I've an open mind on this one, and am willing to listen to objections. And please don't dare call me a racist: My life history can easily prove I am not.

Just tell me what I might have missed in the above proposal. In the meantime, again I warn Tompkins County parents: your children's college 'pie' is now about to shrink because your child (Ithaca, Lansing, Trumansburg, Groton, Dryden, Newfield) attends a 'privileged' school district. The College Board says so.


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