From Quora: My Answer to "Why doesn't standardized testing take into account background? Doesn't this put less fortunate kids at a disadvantage?"
The College Board was going to institute an “environmental factors dashboard,” better known as a “diversity index,” to account for such factors. It was specifically NOT based on race, but rather upon how academically rigorous the student’s school is, the general test scores, the value of commercial real estate in the student’s neighborhood, and the like. Students from poor neighborhoods would have a higer “environmental factors score” or “diversity index.” As I have joked, the factors basically ask “Are you from Detroit?” ;-)
Basically, students’ scores in these areas could be sent along with the SAT scores for colleges to use in whatever way they saw fit- I don’t believe it would actually affect the students’ SAT scores. In other words, a 1500 would still be a 1500 - a kid from a poor, inner-city high school in a collapsing industrial city wouldn’t gain points, and a kid from a rich and rigorous school wouldn’t lose points. However, people REALLY got upset over the whole thing, and the College Board backed off.
I think it’s a shame - the whole thing was a creative way to evaluate the adversity certain students faced without directly considering race (thus avoiding cries of “Reverse discrimination! How do you know a minority kid didn’t go to an AWESOME high school?” and the like). Does it matter THAT much? No, since good colleges ask about adversity, problems you have faced, what is special or different about you, in different ways in the essay portion of the application (For example, see the Common App or the UC application for details). They also can figure out how good your school was through records they have, including how other students who attended your high school did at their schools. They’ll know if your family was poor because you’ll submit financial aid documents.
In the end, disadvantaged students are still, well, disadvantaged, but the SAT’s failure to take those factors into account isn’t a serious problem, not compared to the lack of quality schools in certain neighborhoods, discrimination, defeatist attitudes (e.g., “Don’t bother to try to be a doctor - med schools won’t take people like us”), and the like. It’s also easier for admissions committees to decide what, if any, adjustments should be made for those factors, rather than the College Board’s doing so.
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
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