SAT Drops Plans For 'Adversity Score' Reflecting Students' Privilege

The College Board will instead use a tool that assesses various socioeconomic factors and documents them as separate data points.

The College Board said Tuesday it would not move forward with a planned “adversity score” intended to help level the playing field for students of diverse social and economic backgrounds who take the SAT admissions test.

The company, which administers the admissions exam, said its attempt to address inequality in college admissions through a single score was a mistake.

“The idea of a single score was wrong,” David Coleman, College Board’s chief executive, told The Associated Press. “It was confusing and created the misperception that the indicators are specific to an individual student.”

The College Board said it would instead rely on an updated version of its environmental context dashboard, a tool called Landscape.

The original tool was set up to collate 15 socioeconomic metrics, including the crime rate and poverty levels in a student’s home neighborhood, into a single “adversity score” for each applicant. But critics questioned the College Board’s assumption it could score adversity as it scores academics and worried it could complicate SAT results.

“We listened to thoughtful criticism and made Landscape better and more transparent,” Coleman said in a release.

The updated tool will include detailed high school and neighborhood information to admissions officers as separate data points so they can fairly evaluate each student, the company said.

“UCLA and other UC campuses have considered applicants’ context for many years,” said Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, the vice provost of enrollment management for the University of California, Los Angeles, in a statement.

“We are excited about the research and additional information Landscape will provide us as we continue our efforts to better understand the full range of academic and personal achievements of all students applying for admission,” she said.

First announced in May, the adversity score attempted to address systemic racial and socioeconomic inequality in college admissions. It came after federal prosecutors charged dozens of wealthy parents and college officials in a massive college admissions cheating scam.

Dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” the case accused some parents of paying a college admissions consultant thousands of dollars to fraudulently boost their children’s SAT scores or other admissions factors in the hopes of securing their admission to elite colleges and universities.

It’s no secret that wealthy families in the U.S. already have myriad ways to help get their kids admitted to certain schools, including by making large donations and hiring exam tutors, essay coaches and interview prep professionals. They also often benefit from legacy admissions policies that privilege students whose parent or other relative attended the school.

Those advantages are reflected in SAT scores, too. In 2017, white students scored an average of 177 points higher than Black students and 128 points higher than Hispanic students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“There are a number of amazing students who may have scored less [on the SAT] but have accomplished more,” Coleman told The Wall Street Journal in May. “We can’t sit on our hands and ignore the disparities of wealth reflected in the SAT.”

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