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With the end of affirmative action, a push for a new tool: adversity scores – DNyuz

For a medical school’s head of admissions, Dr. Mark Henderson is pretty forceful when it comes to sizing up the profession.

“Most rich kids go to medical school,” he said.

In his role at the University of California, Davis’ school of medicine, Dr. Henderson has tried to change that, developing an unorthodox tool for assessing applicants: the scale of socioeconomic disadvantage, or SED.

The scale scores all applicants from zero to 99, taking into account their life circumstances, such as family income and parents’ education. Admissions decisions are based on this score, combined with the usual portfolio of grades, test scores, recommendations, essays, and interviews.

The scale of disadvantage has helped make UC Davis one of the most diverse medical schools in the country, remarkable in a state that voted in 1996 ban affirmative action.

With that of the Supreme Court ruling last week against race-conscious admissionsmedical school offers insight into how selective schools across the country might revise their admissions policies as they look for alternative ways to achieve diversity without running afoul of the new law.

Last week, President Biden called the adversity results a “new standard” for achieving diversity.

Word has gotten out about the UC Davis ladder. Dr. Henderson said about 20 schools had recently asked for more information. And there are other socio-economic measures, including Landscape, published in 2019 from the College Board, the nonprofit organization that administers the SAT. This tool allows undergraduate admissions offices to assess the socioeconomic backgrounds of individual students.

But skeptics question whether these rankings, or any type of socioeconomic affirmative action, will be enough to replace race-conscious affirmative action. And schools that use adversity scales may also find themselves walking into legal trouble, with conservative groups vowing to fight programs that are simply surrogates for race.

Over the years, medical schools have made progress in diversifying their student body, with an increase in numbers. But just like undergraduate admissions, wealth and connections continue to play a role in who gets accepted. More than half of medical students come from families in the top 20 percent of incomes, while only 4 percent come from families in the bottom 20 percent, according to data of the American Association of Medical Colleges.

There is also a family dynamic. Children of doctors are 24 times more likely to become doctors than their peers, according to the American Medical Association. It is difficult to know why the profession is passed down from generation to generation, but the statistic drove the association to to adopt a policy opposed to inherited preferences in admissions.

“This is a staggering economic gap between medical students and the general public,” said Dr. Henderson, who comes from a working-class upbringing and now serves as associate dean of admissions.

As a result, the number of black doctors remains very low: 6 percent of practicing physicians in the United States are black, compared to 13.6 percent of american population who identify as black.

With the Supreme Court decision, “that number is likely to go down,” said Dr. James EK Hildreth, president of Meharry Medical College, formed in 1876 in Nashville to train black health care providers.

Medical leaders say training more black and Hispanic doctors could help bridge wide disparities in American health care. research shows that physicians from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups are more likely to work in primary care or in places where physicians are scarce.

And patients have better outcomes when treated by doctors from similar backgrounds, said Dr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, president of the American Medical Association.

The UC Davis scale has attracted attention because of their ability to attract diverse students using what the schools say are “race-neutral” socioeconomic models.

In his most recent entering class of 133 students, 14% were black and 30% were Hispanic. At the national level, 10 percent of medical students they were black and 12 percent were Hispanic. The vast majority of UC Davis’ class (84 percent) comes from disadvantaged backgrounds, and 42 percent are the first in their families to attend college.

The overall acceptance rate has been less than 2 percent.

On the Davis scale, first used in 2012, eight categories establish an adversity score for each candidate. Factors include family income, whether applicants come from an underserved area, whether they help support their nuclear families, and whether their parents went to college.

The higher an applicant rates on the disadvantage scale, the greater the boost.

There is no set formula for how to balance the scale with academic record, Dr. Henderson said, but in simulation of the system revealed that students from underrepresented groups grew to 15.3% from 10.7%. And the proportion of economically disadvantaged students tripled, from 4.6% to 14.5% of the class.

At the same time, scores on the MCAT, the standardized test for medical school applications, fell only marginally.

Still, it’s not easy to persuade medical schools to change their admissions standards, especially anything that undermines the value of test scores and grades. Dr Henderson said he had received pushback from his own colleagues.

“Doctors say their kids got into medical school somewhere else and didn’t get in here,” he said.

As children of doctors, he said, these applicants earned an SED score of zero.

Various scholars, among them Richard D. Kahlenberghave promoted the use of class-conscious preferences, which they say could address racial inequities in education without fostering the resentment that race-based diversity plans often provoke.

And President Biden said Thursday that his administration would develop a “new standard for colleges that takes into account the adversity that a student has overcome.”

“The kid who faced more difficult challenges has shown more courage, more determination,” Biden told reporters at the White House, “and that should be a factor that colleges should consider in admissions”.

Maybe he’s talking about someone like Eleanor Adams, a member of the Choctaw Nation, who said she didn’t think medical school was an option for her.

“I didn’t grow up with a lot of money,” he said.

But she found mentors who encouraged her, and today she is in her third year of medical school at UC Davis, which is in Sacramento. She plans to become a doctor with the Indian Health Service in Oklahoma, fulfilling one of the school’s goals, Dr. Henderson said, which is to train doctors who will return to their communities.

At schools in other states without affirmative action, such as the University of Michigan, admissions officials have complained that enrollment of more socioeconomically disadvantaged students has not significantly increased the proportion of black, Hispanic, and Native American students.

“These tools certainly have utility, but they fall short of what a race-conscious admissions practice does,” said Dr. Ehrenfeld of the American Medical Association.

Socio-economic rankings could also be challenged legally. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in his majority opinion on affirmative action, wrote that universities could consider how race had affected an applicant’s life. But he also warned against using proxies for the race.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian activist group, has already done so sued a selective school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, to use economic factors as proxies for race in admissions.

Joshua P. Thompson, a lawyer for the foundation, said the legal issues surrounding these disadvantage rates were complex.

“I think the devil will be in the details,” Mr Thompson said. “The Supreme Court was quite clear that what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly.”

Should it come to that, Dr Henderson said his school’s scale of disadvantage would be defensible in court.

“Am I worried about that? Yes,” Dr. Henderson said of a lawsuit. “Will it stop me? No.”

the mail With the end of affirmative action, a push for a new tool: adversity scores appeared first News from New York.


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