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SAT 'adversity score': Let's mend it, don't end it

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

As a sign of our changing times, hip-hop legend Dr. Dre provided my favorite story in the recent college admissions bribery scandal.

Fabulously wealthy rap producer and performer Dre, whose real name is Andre Young, wrote a snarky Instagram post in March about his daughter getting into the University of Southern California without "jail time." Ha, ha.

But he later deleted the post after news reports reminded him and the rest of us that he had donated $70 million to the school in 2013.

Oops! Sorry about any embarrassment this unnecessarily brought to Dre's daughter. But I also cannot help but take some lopsided pleasure at this odd sign of racial progress: A wealthy rap star can ease his child's path through the college admissions process in much the same way that privileged white families have done for decades: big donations to the school.

The allegations against Hollywood celebrities have brought new attention -- and a new sense of outrage -- not just to the involved parents but also to the widespread unfairness in college admissions that makes a mockery of meritocracy.

With that in mind, I appreciate the well-intended, although controversial, effort by the College Board to make the system more fair to a diversity of applicants by taking their socioeconomic background into account.

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Officials at the College Board, which creates and administers the SAT exam to about 2 million students annually, is implementing a new addition to its test. College officials are calling it an "adversity score."

I appreciate its intentions, although it falls short of its goal by substituting one potentially unfair standard with another.

The "adversity score" calculates 15 factors from the applicant's home, school and neighborhood environment, including the local crime rate, poverty levels, housing values, vacancy rates, free lunch rates and academic rigor of his or her high school's curriculum.

"An SAT score can only tell you so much," College Board CEO David Coleman explained in a CNN interview. "But when you put it alongside other information, you can see which students score remarkably well in very demanding circumstances."

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(c) 2019 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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