The College Board, the company that administers the SAT exam taken by about 2 million students a year, will for the first time assess students not just on their math and verbal skills, but also on their educational and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The company announced today that it will include a new rating, which is widely being referred to as an “adversity score,” of between 1 and 100 on students’ test results. An average score is 50, and higher numbers mean more disadvantage. The score will be calculated using 15 factors, including the relative quality of the student’s high school and the crime rate and poverty level of the student’s neighborhood.
The rating will not affect students’ test scores, and will be reported only to college admissions officials as part of a larger package of data on each test taker.
Colleges have long tried to bring diversity of all sorts to their student bodies, and they have raised concerns over whether the SAT can be gamed by families who hire expensive consultants and tutors. Higher scores have been found to correlate with students from wealthier families and those with better-educated parents.
“Merit is all about resourcefulness,” David Coleman, chief executive of the College Board, said today. “This is about finding young people who do a great deal with what they’ve been given.”
The new adversity score is part of a larger rating system called the Environmental Context Dashboard that the College Board will include in test results it reports to schools. A trial version of the tool has already been field-tested by 50 colleges. The plan to roll it out officially, to 150 schools this year and more widely in 2020, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
But the score met instantly with an array of criticisms, from worries it created a new cast of winners and losers in the admissions process, to concerns it papered over an inherently flawed test. College counselors said they were swamped with calls from parents today as word of the new measurement got out.