In May, College Board – the company that administers the standardised college admission test SAT – said it would be adding an “adversity score” amid growing scrutiny of the role wealth plays in college admissions.
This score – a measurement of one’s socioeconomic status – was to level the playing field and give an expanded pool of students a better shot of getting accepted into college. Only college admissions officers can see this score and it is not available to students or their families.
Earlier this week, College Board announced that it will be scrapping this plan.
“The resource will no longer display a single “score” combining high school and neighborhood information,” the company said via a statement on its website.
David Coleman, College Board’s Chief Executive said: “The idea of a single score was wrong. It was confusing and created the misperception that the indicators are specific to an individual student.”
We used thoughtful feedback from educators, students, and parents to design Landscape, a resource that college admissions officers can use to learn more about an applicant’s high school and neighborhood. https://t.co/nFemsc9gpS pic.twitter.com/OM31IlYkzI
— The College Board (@CollegeBoard) August 27, 2019
According to the official SAT website, College Board said the term “adversity score” is actually incorrect, although it is widely used. Instead, it states that the “Environmental Context Dashboard (ECD) is a new admissions tool that allows colleges to incorporate a student’s school and environmental context into their admissions process in a data-driven, consistent way. The Dashboard includes contextual data on the student’s neighborhood and high school.”
This attempt to “contextualise” college admission was widely criticised. While the aim to diversify applicants were lauded, critics were skeptical of the method used. The “adversity score” would be calculated without the College Board reporting the weightings it used. Students would not be able to see the score assigned to them. Furthermore, it would report neighbourhood characteristics rather than variables unique to a given student.
Acknowledging these shortcomings, the Dashboard is now replaced by a tool named Landscape. The company said the new tool is meant to provide “consistent information about a student’s neighbourhood and high school, helping colleges consider context in the application review process.”
The tool will look at factors such as the location of a student’s school, availability of reduced-price lunches, participation and performance in Advanced Placement courses, senior class sizes, etc. It will also show how an applicant’s SAT or ACT score compares to those of others at the same high school.
However, it will not replace the individual information included in an application, such as GPA, personal essay or high school transcript. Neither will it alter a student’s SAT score in any way.
Some of these metrics are the same as would have gone into the adversity score. However, unlike before, Landscape will not combine this data into a single score and schools as well as colleges will be able to see them.
Steve Frappier, Director of College Counseling, The Westminster Schools (Atlanta, GA) said: “In admissions, any gaps in essential information inhibit understanding, which in turn can inhibit a committee’s ability to advocate”.
“Applicants tell their own stories based on required materials, which often include transcript, essays, the listing of activities, and test scores. When consulted, Landscape stands to increase an admissions officer’s understanding of all applicants, especially those applying from unfamiliar neighborhoods.”