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Scoring Adversity?

Friday, May 24, 2019 @ 9:08 AM
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Joy Lucius Writer, AFA Journal MORE

“Mrs. Lucius, Mrs. Lucius, guess what! I got to talk to my daddy last night, and he’s getting out of prison soon!”

In my 23 years of teaching, I cannot count how many times I heard kids talk about their dad (or mom) in prison. And that was just one of the adverse situations that my students dealt with and talked about on a daily basis.

Yet, none of my students would ever have thought they deserved a higher score because of the adversity they faced in life. Each student I taught over 23 years was more than a victim of circumstances and much more than a mere number.

But according to College Board, the organization that owns SAT, the college entrance exam taken by millions of high school students annually, my precious students might not have known it, but they needed an “adversity score” in order to succeed past high school.

What’s an adversity score? And how does a person go about calculating a finite score for such an individual and personal concept as adversity? Is that even numerically possible?

College Board believes adversity is indeed a finite, calculable score. And they are fully prepared to send those adversity scores to colleges as admission criteria, right along with SAT scores.

In fact, College Board has already field tested their adversity scoring tool in 50 colleges, according to David Coleman, the company’s chief executive. And they feel confident that they can assign each test taker an accurate adversity score of 1 to 100 by using 15 factors, including the strength or weakness of the student’s high school, as well as poverty levels and crime rates from the student’s neighborhood.

College Board believes this adversity score might help college entrance officials “more fairly” select incoming college students. It could be used to even the playing field, so to speak.

Sounds great, right? Poor kids, especially those from crime-ridden neighborhoods, do face adversities other students in safer, more economically sound neighborhoods do not face. That is true. So, doesn’t this score sound like compassion and equity all rolled up into one meaningful number?

Hardly! Think about how one private company (and eventually other testing companies) would presume the authority to say how “hard” or “not hard” life has been for every kid in America. That is impossible to quantify. There is no fair and just way to measure a child’s level of adversity. None whatsoever.

After all, some of life’s toughest adversities involve sickness, disease, death, or some form of abuse. Plus, someone’s darkest trials may never be seen or known by anyone outside that person’s closest circle of family and friends. How do you measure that kind of traumatic adversity?

Accordingly, is situational adversity brought on by catastrophic life events superseded by the daily adversity of difficult socioeconomic circumstances? Is one type of adversity worse than another? Does one type of adversity deserve preferential scoring over another?

How can College Board, the developers of SAT tests, ever calculate the hardships that any single person has endured, much less calculate millions of people’s adversity on a large, blanket scale? How is that possible?

As a retired Mississippi public school educator, I know full well that many of our own state’s kids face economic and cultural adversities that most people cannot fathom. But their adversities cannot be mathematically reduced to a mere number. Neither can the adversities of their more affluent peers.

I have seen kids of all backgrounds come to school and succeed while battling cancer, facing the death of a sibling or a parent, navigating an ugly divorce, enduring the imprisonment of a father, dealing with addictions of family members, and tackling myriad indescribable circumstances.

I have watched kids overcome losing homes to tornadoes, fires, floods, and other unforeseen forces. And do not even get me started on the neglect and abuse of every imaginable kind that American kids experience, abuse that knows no economic or racial divide.

And how dare College Board assume that every kid in a poverty-ridden neighborhood faces adversity across the board. Some of the most amazing, successful parents I have ever met as a teacher didn’t even have a high school education. Even in the poorest of neighborhoods, they parented with consistency, boundaries, and tough love, and they should have been giving parenting seminars to the rest of us.

Plus, students who have endured unbelievably tough socioeconomic adversities are perfectly able to successfully navigate college. In fact, they are much more realistic and savvy than many other prospective college goers.

Furthermore, what if a kid in a truly adverse situation gets into college because of his adversity score but has a mediocre SAT score? What if he takes the college admission spot of another “privileged” kid with a better SAT score but a much lower adversity score? Is that fair?

And that brings my final question. Do kids in adverse situations really want another handout, or do they want to prove their worth, their value, and earn their rightful place in America’s future?

Think about it! Being extremely poor does not make a kid dumb, and it does not make a kid a lifelong victim. So, we should not pigeonhole students with a ridiculous adversity score, marking them as victims who will always need handouts and help in order to succeed.

That kind of victim mentality is the ultimate form of cultural adversity. It totally negates a person’s inherent, God-given value and worth. And the truth is, we cannot measure adversity any more than we can measure potential.

I say, let the insanity stop now. Drop the SAT adversity scores and let students work for and earn everything they get. In the long run, our students and our nation will be much stronger.

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