Posted on May 16, 2019

SAT to Give Students ‘Adversity Score’ to Capture Social and Economic Background

Douglas Belkin, Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2019

The College Board plans to assign an adversity score to every student who takes the SAT to try to capture their social and economic background, jumping into the debate raging over race and class in college admissions.

This new number, called an adversity score by college admissions officers, is calculated using 15 factors including the crime rate and poverty levels from the student’s high school and neighborhood. Students won’t be told the scores, but colleges will see the numbers when reviewing their applications.

Fifty colleges used the score last year as part of a beta test. The College Board plans to expand it to 150 institutions this fall, and then use it broadly the following year.

{snip}

Adversity Index

College Board’s new tool seeks to provide environmental context behind students’ test scores by measuring adversity in their neighborhoods, families and schools.

The College Board, the New York based nonprofit that oversees the SAT, said it has worried about income inequality influencing test results for years. White students scored an average of 177 points higher than black students and 133 points higher than Hispanic students in 2018 results. Asian students scored 100 points higher than white students. The children of wealthy and college-educated parents outperformed their classmates.

“There are a number of amazing students who may have scored less [on the SAT] but have accomplished more,” said David Coleman, chief executive of the College Board. “We can’t sit on our hands and ignore the disparities of wealth reflected in the SAT.”

{snip}

Yale University is one of the schools that has tried using applicants’ adversity scores. Yale has pushed to increase socioeconomic diversity and, over several years, has nearly doubled the number of low-income and first-generation-to-attend-college students to about 20% of newly admitted students, said Jeremiah Quinlan, the dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale.

{snip}

James Conroy, director of college counseling at New Trier High School, which serves several affluent and mostly white communities north of Chicago, said the focus on diversity by elite colleges is already high and the adversity score would magnify that.

{snip}

The adversity score, by contrast, doesn’t take into account race and is superior because it is steeped in more research, said Connie Betterton, vice president for higher education access and strategy at the College Board.

{snip}

The new score—which falls on a scale of one through 100—will pop up on something called the Environmental Context Dashboard, which shows several indicators of relative poverty, wealth and opportunity as well as a student’s SAT score compared with those of their classmates. On the dashboard, the score is called “Overall Disadvantage Level.”

An adversity score of 50 is average. Anything above it designates hardship, below it privilege.

The College Board declined to say how it calculates the adversity score or weighs the factors that go into it. {snip}

{snip}

“The purpose is to get to race without using race,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Mr. Carnevale formerly worked for the College Board and oversaw the Strivers program.

{snip}

“If I am going to make room for more of the [poor and minority] students we want to admit and I have a finite number of spaces, then someone has to suffer and that will be privileged kids on the bubble,” [John Barnhill, assistant vice president for academic affairs at Florida State University] said.