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Level playing field

In the Friday, June 7, Boerne Star (Write of Center column), Mr. (Scott) Kramer writes a thoughtful column responding to the College Board addition of an “adversity score” to all SAT scores used in the college admissions process. As Mr. Kramer points out, this adversity score uses 15 factors, including crime rates and poverty levels, to create an index that gives college admission offices a snapshot of a student’s learning environment. 

Mr. Kramer suggests that using these scores will make the college admissions playing field unlevel and wrongly give advantages to minority students. After telling a beautiful story of how his great-uncle rose out of hard times to graduate from Johns Hopkins University in 1916, he concludes his column against adversity scores by saying, “Every American deserves a level playing field, an equal opportunity to chase their dreams, too.”

I agree with Mr. Kramer. Every American student deserves a level playing field, and an opportunity to pursue their dreams. Mr. Kramer assumes that level playing field already exists and the adversity scores would make it unlevel. Sadly, we all know the educational playing field is not level today. 

We do not like to talk about it, but let us be honest: every student in America does not have an equal opportunity to receive the same level of education. Not all school districts are equal. For many of us, one of the most influential factors in choosing where to purchase our home is the quality of the school district. 

There is nothing wrong with that. We all want the very best for our children. We know not every school district is the same in their educational offerings for children. We are in denial if we cannot see and admit that the playing field is unequal. Students who attend schools in poor school districts do not receive the same level of education, do not have the same learning environment and do not have the same educational programs as students who attend schools in wealthy school districts. 

Wealthy school districts can offer a pay level that attracts the best teachers, can maintain excellent classroom environments, can stock the shelves of outstanding libraries, can offer the latest technological advances and can provide additional learning experiences about which students in poor districts can only dream. 

Students in wealthy districts have parents who can afford test prep courses and personal tutors that give their children an advantage that children in poor districts do not have. Students who must work while in high school to help put food on the table and contribute to the rent do not have as much time to study as their wealthier peers. 

The educational playing field is far from the level playing field Mr. Kramer imagines it to be. This is not a new problem. Mr. Kramer’s great uncle pulled himself up by his bootstraps to work hard and to graduate from Johns Hopkins University.

It is an outstanding accomplishment of which his family should rightly be proud. But even in 1916, the playing field was not level. Not everyone who worked hard had the same opportunities. It was not until 1945 that Frederick Scott became the first and only African American student admitted to Johns Hopkins undergraduate program. 

I do not know whether or not the adversity score index is a good addition to SAT scores. I do not know how college admission officers will use those indexes when making decisions regarding admissions. Time will tell. 

What I do know is that Mr. Kramer is right: every single student in America deserves an excellent education and equal opportunities to work hard to pursue their dreams. Right now, the playing field is not level in the state of Texas or in America. I hope Mr. Kramer and our political leaders will go spend time in schools and neighborhoods in both poor districts and wealthy districts, and open their eyes and hearts to acknowledge the differences. 

When it comes to investing in our educational system, our great nation and our great state must do much better than what we are doing right now.

– David Read, Boerne