Breaking News Emails
Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Safia Samee Ali
The SAT exam, used by a majority of colleges to grant entrance, will be adding an “adversity score” to the test that will take into account a student’s socioeconomic background in an effort to help colleges take a more rounded approach in the admissions process.
The new measure, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is aimed at factoring in student hardships that are not reflected in test scores.
“Through its history, the College Board has been focused on finding unseen talent. The Environmental Context Dashboard shines a light on students who have demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness to overcome challenges and achieve more with less. It enables colleges to witness the strength of students in a huge swath of America who would otherwise be overlooked,” said David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, the nonprofit organization that oversees the SAT.
“There is talent and potential waiting to be discovered in every community – the children of poor rural families, kids navigating the challenges of life in the inner city, and military dependents who face the daily difficulties of low income and frequent deployments as part of their family’s service to our country. No single test score should ever be examined without paying attention to this critical context,” he added in a statement to NBC News.
The adversity score, called Environmental Context Dashboard, will take into consideration a student’s neighborhood, family and school, and then assign the student a number based on those factors.
More specifically, the score will fall on a scale between 1 and 100, with an average score of 50 — anything above that would show hardship.
The calculation, which will be sent to colleges but not shared with students, will be based by looking at the crime and poverty rates of a student’s neighborhood, as well as their parents’ income level. Race is not a factor in the score, according to the College Board.
The adversity score also adds additional context to a student by including the average number of AP courses taken and scores from AP tests, as well as the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, according to the College Board.
The College Board has already conducted a test run of the adversity score program at 50 schools, according to the Journal. The program will officially roll out to 150 additional schools by the end of the year, with plans to add more in 2020.
Results from the pilot program were positive in part because they provided decision makers with more context so they could take a more holistic approach to decision making, according to the College Board.
“We are proud that results from our pilot of the tool show that using the Environment Context Dashboard makes it more likely that students who demonstrate strength and resourcefulness in overcoming challenges are more likely to be admitted to college,” Coleman said in a statement.
The addition of an adversity score comes amid a national debate on the ethics of college admissions.
In March, several individuals were indicted in a college admission scandal that included the use of a professional SAT test-taker and access to special test accommodations.
Actress Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty to federal charges Monday, admitting that she paid a fixer thousands of dollars to have wrong answers corrected on her daughter’s SAT exam, leading to a remarkably improved score from the teen’s PSAT performance, prosecutors said.
Georgetown University expelled two students for their involvement in the same college admission scandal.