May 21, 2019

Axios PM

Good afternoon. Today's PM is 497 words.

1 big thing: Varsity Blues is the tip of the iceberg

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's not just cheaters: From legacy privileges to special testing exemptions to private tutors and other professional services, it's increasingly clear that America's selective college admissions system has a problem.

Why it matters: These are assaults on equality of opportunity, which American politicians have preached for generations.

  • 4.2% of students at wealthier public schools have designations for extra time during tests, the WSJ reported today.
  • At poorer schools, it's only 1.6%.
  • White students disproportionately benefit: 64% of special designations go to them, while they're less than half of public school enrollment.

The big picture: College admissions have become ruthlessly competitive, and the existing rules allow people to buy advantages without breaking a single rule.

  • "Public high schools decide which students get a special designation like a 504 that puts them in line for more time."
  • "Typically, a medical professional must assess a student and decide he or she has some condition such as anxiety or attention problems."
  • "In affluent communities, parents are more likely to know this option exists, and can pay for an outside evaluation if the school won’t."
  • "Many poorer families can’t afford such testing even if they are aware of the process."

What's next: The College Board is rolling out an "adversity score" to give socioeconomic and environmental context for test scores.

  • And Operation Varsity Blues is still unfolding, showcasing the number of elite parents willing to pay to get their kids through the side door.

The bottom line: Nothing will, or should, prevent a parent from doing the absolute best for their child.

  • But it's increasingly hard to square the idea of meritocracy with a system that consistently conveys structural advantages on those born into wealth and social connections.
Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: KWTV-KOTV via AP

This image made from video provided by KWTV-KOTV shows two funnel clouds that formed yesterday in Crescent, Oklahoma.

  • "An intense storm system that weather forecasters labeled 'particularly dangerous' swept through the Southern Plains, spawning a few tornadoes that caused some damage and a deluge of rain but no reports of injuries."
  • Go deeper: Why Oklahoma didn't see more big tornadoes.
2. What you missed
  1. Huawei has gotten temporary permission to continue buying U.S.-made components, but only to maintain existing networks or support existing devices. Go deeper.
  2. 25 McDonald's employees have filed sexual harassment charges against their employer. Details.
  3. Maine's lobster exports to China have plummeted following punitive tariffs placed on a variety of U.S. goods. Details.
  4. President Trump is expected to name Ken Cuccinelli to a new top post on immigration. [NYT]
  5. Walmart workers have invited Bernie Sanders to the annual shareholders meeting to stand with workers as they introduce a proposal asking for a seat on the company's board for hourly workers. Go deeper.
3. 1 Nipsey thing

Photos: AP

The video for "Higher," the latest single from DJ Khaled's new album, was filmed just days before rapper Nipsey Hussle, who features on the track, was murdered in Los Angeles in March.

Khaled talked with AP about Hussle's impact:

  • "He’s such a great man and a great leader. He’s like a prophet. The world felt it and the world is coming together to continue his message. The marathon continues. Long live Nipsey Hussle. He’s here right now."

All proceeds from the song, which also features John Legend, will be donated by Khaled to Hussle's two children.