Posted on June 18, 2019

Asian Americans Fear the SAT ‘Adversity Score’ Will Harm Their Kids. The College Board Won’t Talk to Them.

Christopher Tremoglie, College Fix, June 13, 2019

The maker of the Scholastic Aptitude Test is silent on criticisms that its recent changes – intended to level the socioeconomic playing field in admissions – will hurt Asian-American children in particular.

A spokesperson for the College Board emphasized to The College Fix that its new “environmental context dashboard” is not an “adversity score,” a term he attributed to The Wall Street Journal. He issued a lengthy explanation of what the ECD does and does not do.


Yukong Zhao, president of the coalition, confirmed to The Fix in an email Wednesday that the College Board had yet to respond to its May 31 letter outlining concerns.

The implementation of adversity scores, the popular slang term for the ECD, “will result in grave harms to Asian-American children who are already punished by racial preferences in college admissions,” the coalition wrote in a press release last week.


The ECD has been controversial since the College Board piloted it on about 50 schools in recent years, though early critics faulted its exclusion of race from consideration. {snip}

If fully implemented, it would reinterpret academic achievement based on the alleged challenges that applicants are presumed to have faced. The College Board plans to expand its availability to 150 schools this year and all colleges next year.

Though more recent criticisms of the ECD include its potential for fraud and the opacity of its criteria, critics generally object to its likelihood to penalize students who perform well academically – a group that is disproportionately Asian American.

‘A double penalty on Asian-American children from working class families’

The Asian American Coalition on Education doesn’t have a previous relationship with the College Board or other provider of student performance tests, Wenyuan Wu, director of administration, told The Fix in an email.

But it’s made its views on college admissions known for years, going back to a 2015 regulatory complaint against Harvard. The coalition agrees with most Americans, as judged by polling, that merit should be the sole determinant of admission, with no role for race, ethnicity, gender, legacy or athletic ability, Wu said.

It has long supported socioeconomic affirmative action that leaves open “a reasonable percentage of admissions slots for certain eligible students from poorer neighborhoods,” she continued.

The coalition actually wants an even more “holistic” evaluation process than Harvard and other elite schools use, Wu said. Certain skills should get greater weight depending on a student’s choice of study:


The so-called adversity score “could be a positive step toward replacing racial preferences in college admissions IF it is structured scientifically and according to fair yardsticks,” Wu wrote. But if “utilized on top of racial preferences,” the score will “impose a double penalty on Asian-American children from working class families,” she said.


These politicians “{snip} treat Asian-Americans as scapegoats to advance their political agenda, which is mostly tied to winning votes without solving real issues.”


The coalition’s May 31 letter accuses the College Board of failure to consult with the Asian-American community and asks the organization to turn over its “methodology” for the ECD.

The new system effectively punishes families who “endure tremendous hardships and make great sacrifices so that they can move to good school districts and send their kids to good schools,” it continues. “Without any privileged background, these families practice the principles of resilience, financial prudence, family responsibilities, and hard-work [sic].”


Gives boost to ‘poor rural’ and military families

The College Board {snip} does not “alter” an SAT score or consider “personal characteristics” of students beyond their SAT score. All it does is show “how a student’s’ SAT score compares to those of other students in their school” and give admissions officers “better context about an applicant’s neighborhood and high school.”