Douglas Belkin, Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2019
The College Board is abandoning its plan to assign an adversity score to every student who takes the SAT college admissions test, after facing criticism from educators and parents.
Instead, it will try to capture a student’s social and economic background in a broad array of data points. The new tactic is called Landscape and doesn’t combine the metrics into a single score.
The original tool, called the “environmental context dashboard,” combined about 15 socio-economic metrics from a student’s high school and neighborhood to create something college admission officers called an “adversity score.”
Considering a student’s race and class in college admissions decisions is a contentious issue. Many colleges, including Harvard University, say a diverse student body is part of the educational mission of a school. A lawsuit accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants by holding them to a higher standard is awaiting a final ruling from a judge. Lawsuits charging unfair admission practices have also been filed against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of California system.
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.
Landscape is designed to help colleges compare an applicant’s test scores to other students in their high school and beyond, the College Board said. It also aims to give a picture of the quality of the school and relative wealth and stability of the neighborhood.
Six “challenge factors” provide the “summary neighborhood challenge indicator” and the “summary high school challenge indicator,” according to the College Board. The six factors are college attendance, household structure, median family income, housing stability, education levels and crime.
Fifty colleges used the adversity score last year as part of a beta test. The College Board had planned to expand it to 150 institutions this fall, and then use it broadly the following year.