NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

SAT Exams Introduce "Striver" Weights

August 31, 1999

The Educational Testing Service, which devises the SAT (formerly called the Scholastic Aptitude Test) given to college-bound high school students, has come up with a new formula to identify, by ethnic and socioeconomic status, those who strive to succeed in school. It factors in ethnicity in a way that its supporters hope will avoid the legal problems of race-based affirmative- action programs.

Here's how it works:

  • A statistical equation generates an expected SAT score for every student based on 14 different categories -- including family income, parents' education level and high school socioeconomic mix.
  • The Strivers score is the difference between the actual SAT score and the expected score -- with those who score 200 points higher than the expected score being identified as Strivers.
  • Colleges will be offered both a race-blind model and one which takes students' race and ethnicity into account.
  • When race is taken into account, the predicted score for blacks and Hispanics would be lower -- and their chances of being identified as a Striver would be higher -- because those groups have a history of lower scores on the SAT.

Strive enthusiasts believe it represents a way to withstand court challenges and laws -- such as California's Proposition 209 -- which have placed legal restrictions on colleges using affirmative-action in admissions. Washington state has also adopted a law barring affirmative-action preferences in public education and similar measures are pending or being considered in other states.

It is not clear how many schools will adopt Strivers. Upper- middle-class children from superior schools whose parents went to college will tend to be hurt by the Strivers scale if their SAT scores are mediocre.

Source: Amy Dockser Marcus, "New Weights Can Alter SAT Scores," Wall Street Journal, August 31, 1999.


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