Adversity Scores reflective of academic excellence and service to a diverse student population.

Dear Bishop McDevitt Stakeholders,

Recently on November 26, 2019, the Wall Street Journal posted an article reflecting the Highest Median SAT Scores for schools in the United States. There has been some correlation of scores compiled as to how Bishop McDevitt faired in comparison to our neighboring schools in the Central Pennsylvania area. I am pleased to give a summary of the article and how I believe it reflects not only our fulfillment of our Mission but, the great academic achievements our students are making as well as the impact of our teachers’ instructional pedagogy. You may review the full article at: (

Article Summary: What Happens if SAT scores consider adversity? Find your school.

What if SAT scores could take into account whether a student went to an elite boarding school in New England or a struggling public school in Chicago’s poorest neighborhood? The College Board, which administers SAT, asked the question and developed an adversity score for every U.S high school, measuring about 15 factors such as income level, socio-economic status, parental demographic, and crime rate in a school’s neighborhood. It abandoned the single -number measurement over the summer after a public outcry from educators and parents. Instead, it plans to give colleges a range of socioeconomic data on high schools and their neighborhoods. School’s median SAT scores show a strong negative correlation with adversity, an index based on factors such as the high school’s college access and curriculum, student’s family stability, and median household income. Private schools tend to have had lower adversity scores. The median private school had an adversity score of 26 and scored over 100 points above the overall median on the SAT (Bishop McDevitt’s adversity score was a 51 compared to other private schools in Central PA with adversity scores between 21 and 38).

Many of the schools with the highest adversity scores and the lowest SAT scores are inner city public schools in large cities. We calculated the difference between the schools’ actual SAT score and predicted SAT score to see how schools performed in the context of their adversity score. (Overperformer or Underperformer). Some schools with high adversity scores punched far above their weight (Bishop McDevitt is in this category). The weighted scores are intended as a proxy of how schools would perform if each had the same resources and student backgrounds. Additionally, The SAT has never been more widely used—or broadly threatened—as the gatekeeper to elite higher education. The University of California is considering dropping the SAT as a requirement for admission due to its concern that the test has become a barrier for poor and minority students applying to elite schools. “There are some glaring concerns about standardized tests, specifically the SAT, and the disparate impact it has on certain groups”. The College board, a New York based nonprofit, has said it has worried for years about race and income inequality influencing results.

Note: Between September 2018 and September 2019 nearly 50 accredited colleges and universities announced they were dropping the admissions requirement for SAT or ACT scores bringing the total who have done so to 1050 or about 40 percent of the total number of accredited colleges and universities. For more information on schools not using the SAT scores as an admission requirement please go to:

Interpreting the Data:

Chart #1 shows the statistical data for schools in the central Pennsylvania area ranked by “Median SAT scores”. Median is calculated by reviewing the number of test takers and looking at the “middle number”. This is not the average score (mean) of all test takers or the mode (number that happens most frequently); it is reflective of the number that lies in the middle of all sampled test takers. The data provided in the article does not reflect whether these students performed better or worse on average than their counterparts who took the SAT. For example Camp Hill School District had 85 students take the SAT. In that sample size their median was 1165 which is the middle score of all 85 test takers where 42 students could have performed at or above 1165 and 42 could have scored at or below 1165. It does not indicate that those students performing below scored significantly less than 1165 just that they scored below the median, or middle number. This should not be interpreted as the average of the SAT scores for all students as the average score of all test takers could be higher or lower than the median score. The Adversity score is of significance in this study as it is an illustration of factors or effects which may have contributed to the median scores of each school. The Adversity score is reflective of race, gender, socio-economic disadvantages, resources, etc, which have been historically challenged as predictors of student performance on standardized tests. This study indicates the lower the school’s adversity score the higher the median score should be and conversely the higher the Adversity score the lower the expected median score would be. Chart 1 also adjusts for the predictor of student median scores based on their adjusted scores for adversity. This study calculated the difference between the school’s actual median SAT score and predicted SAT score to see how the schools performed in the context of their adversity score (Median Adjusted Scores for Adversity).

What does this mean for McDevitt students and teachers?

The interpretation of this data is an indictor that Bishop McDevitt High School is outperforming all local High Schools in SAT median predictors based on their adversity score. Chart 2 illustrates the actual median score in Blue and the Adjusted performance in Orange. Chart 3 shows those schools with a Higher Adjusted Median score based on the study are outperforming performance on SAT scores based on the demographic composition of their respective student body (Schools with a “-” adjusted median score, based on this study, are underperforming. While, schools with a “+” adjusted median score, based on this study, are overperforming). Bishop McDevitt and our students (+43) outperform based on demographic composition, while schools such as Cumberland Valley (-129), Camp Hill (-128), etc. are underperforming for similar variables (Chart 3). Based on the data in these charts, it would be indicative that should Bishop McDevitt have the same students from the same background as some of our competitor schools, we would outperform our counterparts by as much as a 172 point differential on the SAT tests.

So Where do Crusaders STAND?

While many schools would solely view the median SAT score as an achievement worthy of recognition for a select demographic, Bishop McDevitt High School is very proud that we continue to fulfill our mission to serve students of diverse intellectual, socio-economic, and religious backgrounds. We strive to nurture the whole person by creating a challenging academic environment rooted in Gospel Values. In doing so, we believe we successfully provide more opportunities to a more diverse student body than any school in Central Pennsylvania.

This summary has not been prepared to inform our stakeholders of any academic achievements or predictors of student performance. We provide this summary to inform our stakeholders of our commitment to the mission begun by Bishop Philip R. McDevitt in 1918 to provide an outstanding Catholic education to all students. This study conducted by the College Board is reflective of Bishop McDevitt’s ongoing commitment to live our mission and create a diverse student body (reflective of the Adversity Score). We pride ourselves on our acceptance of students from diverse backgrounds ranging from very minimal academic or financial challenge to those who may have socio economic needs, academic needs, and who otherwise may not be accepted into other private institutions in our area. We pride ourselves on our mission to expose and pronounce the Catholic Faith to all students. Our curriculum is strong and our staff dedication to teaching ALL students is unwavering and illustratively overperforming.

As Bishop McDevitt is committed to serve our students, we do not rely on statistics such as an adversity score, that would attempt to quantify the challenges some of our students face. We do not agree that the challenges of our students can be quantified into a simple algorithm yielding an adversity score. We do believe this study is extremely demonstrative of Bishop McDevitt’s commitment to prepare all of our students for academic excellence in lieu of outside performance indicators that otherwise would predict lower achievement on standardized tests such as the SATs. We rely on our ability to create a safe environment conducive to student learning and provide all students with an opportunity to excel. We rely on our pillars of Faith, Tradition, and Academics. We rely on a unifying sense of family that make all of us a Crusader!! As such, we are proud to present this information as a commendation to the high academic standard Bishop McDevitt as an institution and our teachers have held for over the past 100 years for all of our students despite socio-economic, intellectual, and religious backgrounds.


Vincent Harper ‘92


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Bishop McDevitt High School

1 Crusader Way
Harrisburg, PA 17111

 PHONE: 717.236.7973
FAX: 717-234-1270

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