College Board to Drop SAT Adversity Score Following Criticism

The College Board will no longer assign an “adversity score” to students who take the SAT exam following fierce criticism from parents and educators.

In May, the College Board introduced the “Environmental Context Dashboard,” which rated a student’s level of disadvantage based on 15 factors, including their neighborhood’s crime rate and poverty level. David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, told The North Star at the time that the new tool highlighted students “who have demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness to overcome challenges and achieve more with less.”

Students were to be scored on a scale of one through 100 using information from the US Census and the National Center for Education Statistics. The score did not plan to use the student’s race.

The College Board, a New York-based nonprofit that oversees the SAT, will now use a tool they’ve named Landscape. It will collect much of the same information, but it will not combine the metrics into a single score, The Wall Street Journal reported. The new tool will also increase transparency by allowing students and families to see the same information about high schools and neighborhoods that colleges will utilize in the admissions process.

In an interview with NPR, Coleman said it will let college admissions officials conduct their own analysis from the information they provide alongside students’ SAT scores. “We’ll leave the interpretation to the admission’s officer,” he said. “In other words, we’re leaving a lot more room for judgement.”

The change comes after criticisms from educators and families, the College Board said. Parents and college counselors questioned how the data was calculated and why the information and adversity score were not available to students and their families.

“We listened to thoughtful criticism and made Landscape better and more transparent,” Coleman said in a new statement. “Landscape provides admissions officers more consistent background information so they can fairly consider every student, no matter where they live and learn.”

Coleman told NPR that aggregating all the individual student’s information into one number was complex and problematic. He also noted that some people worried the score would affect a student’s SAT score, which was not the case.

“The idea of a single score was confusing because it seemed that all of a sudden the College Board was trying to score adversity. That’s not the College Board’s mission,” Coleman said. “The College Board scores achievement, not adversity.”

The organization said it has been concerned with how race and income inequality have influenced the SAT’s test results over the years, The Wall Street Journal reported. In 2018, white students scored an average of 177 points higher than Black students and 133 points higher than Hispanic students. Meanwhile, Asian students have outscored white students by 100 points.

Students who have wealthy, college-educated parents routinely also score better on the SAT — which tests math and verbal knowledge — than their counterparts in other racial and socioeconomic groups.

Schools that used the College Board’s Environmental Context Dashboard during pilot testing reported the information helped increase the enrollment numbers of nonwhite students. The tool was piloted at 50 colleges and universities and was set to expand to 150 institutions in the fall.

Landscape will provide key information based on six “challenge factors,” including college attendance, household structure, median family income, housing stability, education levels, and crime, according to The Wall Street Journal. The College Board said admissions officers who pilot tested Landscape estimated they lack the high school information of nearly 25 percent of all applicants.

Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, vice provost of enrollment management at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) said that the university and other University of California campuses have looked at and considered prospective students’ background information for “many years.”

“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,” Copeland-Morgan said.

According to The Wall Street Journal, this is the second time the College Board has stepped back from efforts to highlight students’ social and economic backgrounds. The organization was forced to roll back a similar effort 20 years earlier following criticisms from colleges.


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.