Friday, June 21, 2019

SAT’s Adversity Index: Academic Excellence or Socioeconomic Diversity?

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) of the College Board became popular after World War II mainly to provide a reasonably objective means of increasing emphasis on academic merit in admissions to elite colleges. As Jerome Karabel (author of The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton) vividly pointed out more than a decade ago, introducing the SAT as a major admission determinant helped reduce blatant discrimination against Jews and other relatively disadvantaged groups. It lowered the power of admissions officers to use their discretion and discriminate against those who did not fit the Ivy League’s seeming preference for rich mostly Protestant kids from private secondary schools.

I fear we are somewhat returning to the bad old days, as we enter an era of “test-optional” admissions, meaning increased admission officer discretion (“holistic” admission procedures) to admit the kind of class currently considered politically correct—the “right” portion of persons classified by gender, race, income, religion, sexual preferences and other attributes. The emphasis on academic potential seems to be downplayed, perhaps not surprisingly in an age where college students spent little time actually studying, and grade inflation is rampant.

SAT, losing the business of prestigious schools (e.g., the University of Chicago) to either the rival ACT or to no testing whatsoever, wants to offer new information (an “Adversity Index”) to admissions officers so they can achieve a perceived optimal socioeconomic mix of students. If a person lives in a high crime area with low incomes but much poverty, that information will be passed on to schools as part of the index. Schools, wanting to demonstrate that they are “inclusive” will start bragging about the high adversity index of their students. Want to get your kid into a top school but not go to jail trying? First, improve the SAT score by claiming your child has a disability requiring them extra time on the test. Second, move, at least on paper, during your child’s senior year to some slum with lots of crime. Other people’s crime may help get Johnny or Joanna into college. Admissions officers might start computing “adjusted” SAT scores—correcting for disadvantages measured by the adversity index.

Rival ACT is not going along. Its president Marten Roorda points out that the SAT adversity index has not been validated by researchers. There are literally thousands of different ways such an index can be constructed. Roorda makes an even better point, however: “If I were a student, I would become concerned or angry if the testing company would provide a diversity score to colleges, without me knowing it, without me approving it.” The student is paying for information he or she is forbidden to have. Is that legal or ethical?

Here’s the dilemma. Currently, top schools are populated mainly by affluent kids. Raj Chetty and associates suggest the average family income of Ivy League students approximates $500,000, and the median is around $200,000. These schools are getting a PR beating for favoring affluent white students. Admitting rich kids is financially rewarding—they more likely pay the full published tuition fee and probably later in life will make greater donations. Moreover, on average, high-income kids have higher test scores and grades, went to better high schools, come from intact families with strong work ethics, etc. So using strict academic criteria to admit students leads to entering classes dominated by affluent kids.

The American Dream, however, revolves around income mobility—people overcoming adversity and moving from poverty to prosperity, which, in today’s world, means becoming relatively highly educated. The reality, however, is that most poor people today lack good college degrees needed to ascend the economic ladder, so income mobility in America, once extremely high, is now declining and below that of many other countries.

The elite schools are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Heavily increasing the representation of people facing more adversity will be viewed favorably politically, but likely lead to less good students who likely will fare typically less well in life, taking fewer leadership positions. Job One for colleges is to promote the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Additionally, however, colleges are screening devices separating the ordinary from the extraordinary, the leaders from the followers. Colleges face a challenge: Do they try to maximize learning or income mobility? Stay tuned.


Black Education Decline

Walter E. Williams

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says that the city's specialized high schools have a diversity problem. He's joined by New York City Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza, educators, students and community leaders who want to fix the diversity problem.

I bet you can easily guess what they will do to "improve" the racial mix of students (aka diversity).

If you guessed they would propose eliminating the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test as the sole criterion for admissions, go to the head of the class. The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test is an examination that is administered to New York City's eighth- and ninth-grade students. By state law, it is used to determine admission to all but one of the city's nine specialized high schools.

It's taken as axiomatic that the relatively few blacks admitted to these high-powered schools is somehow tied to racial discrimination. In a June 2, 2018 "Chalkbeat" article (, de Blasio writes: "The problem is clear. Eight of our most renowned high schools — including Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School — rely on a single, high-stakes exam. The Specialized High School Admissions Test isn't just flawed — it's a roadblock to justice, progress and academic excellence."

Let's look at a bit of history to raise some questions about the mayor's diversity hypothesis.

Dr. Thomas Sowell provides some interesting statistics about Stuyvesant High School in his book "Wealth, Poverty and Politics." He reports that, "In 1938, the proportion of blacks attending Stuyvesant High School, a specialized school, was almost as high as the proportion of blacks in the population of New York City." Since then, it has spiraled downward. In 1979, blacks were 12.9% of students at Stuyvesant, falling to 4.8% in 1995. By 2012, The New York Times reported that blacks were 1.2% of the student body.

What explains the decline?

None of the usual explanations for racial disparities make sense. In other words, would one want to argue that there was less racial discrimination in 1938? Or, argue that in 1938 the "legacy of slavery" had not taken effect whereby now it is in full bloom?

Genetic or environmental arguments cannot explain why blacks of an earlier generation were able to meet the demanding mental test standards to get into an elite high school. Socioeconomic conditions for blacks have improved dramatically since 1938. The only other plausible reason for the decline in academic achievement is that there has been a change in black culture. It doesn't take much to reach this conclusion. Simply look at school behavior today versus yesteryear.

An Education Week article reported that in the 2015-16 school year, "5.8% of the nation's 3.8 million teachers were physically attacked by a student." The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics show that in the 2011-12 academic year, there were a record 209,800 primary- and secondary-school teachers who reported being physically attacked by a student. Nationally, an average of 1,175 teachers and staff were physically attacked, including being knocked out, each day of that school year.

In the city of Baltimore, each school day in 2010, an average of four teachers and staff were assaulted. A National Center for Education Statistics study found that 18% of the nation's schools accounted for 75% of the reported incidents of violence, and 6.6% accounted for half of all reported incidents. These are schools with predominantly black student populations.

It's not only assaults on teachers but cursing and disorderly conduct that are the standard fare in so many predominantly black schools.

Here are questions that might be asked of de Blasio and others who want to "fix the diversity problem" at New York's specialized schools: What has the triumph of egalitarian and diversity principles done for the rest of New York's school system? Are their academic achievement scores better than students at New York's specialized schools?

The most important question for black parents: What has been allowed to happen to cripple black academic excellence?


Australian Preschool teachers demand $100K salaries and claim they are underpaid because 95 per cent are female

And who do they think is going to pay those salaries?  They would wipe out the sector if they got what they wanted.  Requiring university degrees for childcare is insane

Preschool teachers with university degrees are demanding $101,767 salaries, saying they're underpaid because they work in a female-dominated industry.

The Independent Education Union is pushing for pay rises of up to 49 per cent for their most experienced members.

The Union believes experienced preschool teachers should paid the same as primary school educators, who have the same university degrees.

But the Australian Childcare Alliance argues that if the case is successful, preschool teachers will be making the same as doctors and childcare costs will skyrocket.

'If we're successful it will be a very significant case legally, and it will also have a major impact on our early childhood teacher members,' IEU Assistant Secretary Carol Matthews told The Age.

The IEU argues that early childhood teachers have similar jobs to primary school teachers, but don't get paid as well because more than 95 per cent of daycare workers are women.

If the Independent Union wins its case for pay rises, other 'feminised' industries such as childcare and disability services are also expected to call for similar changes.

The case is being overseen by the United Voice union, which represents more than 100,000 workers in the childcare sector.

Labor's loss in last month's federal election meant childcare workers didn't get $10 billion in 20 per cent pay rises that then-Opposition leader Bill Shorten had pledged.

The Coalition's new industrial relations minister Christian Porter said he is keeping a close eye on the pay increase demand.

Childcare workers on the Educational Services (Teachers) Award are on salaries of between $50,017 and $69,208 a year.

Mr Shorten had promised to make it easier for unions to be successful in pay equity cases, saying workers in those industries were paid less because they're female-dominated.

The Independent Union advocate for gender-based pay fairness, and argue that preschool teachers aren't properly compensated for what they do.

United Voice, who represent childcare workers with diplomas, lost a fair pay case in 2018, but if the IEU wins their current case, United Voice would likely try again.

But the Australian Childcare Alliance, who represents privately owned childhood care and education services, is going up against the IEU.

The ACA wrote to the Fair Work Commission, arguing that if the union wins, the most experienced preschool teachers would be earning the same as doctors, academics and nursing directors.

'In any case, there are powerful discretionary reasons to refuse the claim, including that the grant of the claim would jeopardise the viability of many services and would substantially increase childcare costs,' the ACA submission said.


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