Posted on May 29, 2019

What ‘Everyone Knows’ About the SAT Is Wrong

Jason Richwine, National Review, May 28, 2019

{snip} To the extent there is a difference, the College Board’s own data show that a high adversity score is associated with slightly lower college grades than testing would predict. The idea that the SAT scores of high-adversity applicants need to be corrected upward to ensure a merit-based system is wrong.

Richard Kahlenberg {snip} argues that the adversity score is “a quantitative counterpoint to the SAT” that will improve merit-based admissions:

…[An] adversity score offers colleges some way to acknowledge what everyone knows: A student who scored 1200 on the SAT despite having grown up in a high-crime neighborhood and attending high-poverty schools has more long-run potential than a student who earned 1200 while having access to the best private schools and paid tutors.

Kahlenberg supports this claim not with data, but only with the insistence that “everyone knows” it’s true. In reality, the claim is too vague to evaluate. What does “long-run potential” mean? It cannot mean college performance, because we know that the SAT predicts about as well for the underprivileged as it does for the privileged. If anything, the underprivileged perform below expectations, not above.

Maybe “more long-run potential” refers to economic and social success after college? If so, Kahlenberg would have us believe that once we control for a test score such as the SAT, then people from poorer backgrounds are more successful than people from wealthier backgrounds. That’s empirically false. {snip}

So we are left with “more long-run potential” that is apparently never realized. {snip} Perhaps the underprivileged deserve special consideration as a form of redistribution.

{snip} When college administrators favor lower-scoring applicants, with no evidence that their scores underestimate their future success on campus or in the broader world, they have prioritized redistribution over merit. Why not acknowledge that?