The SAT exam will include an adversity score to measure socio-economic factors.
Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

SAT exams will add 'adversity score' to factor in socio-economic backgrounds

The SAT exam, the College Board test that has been the benchmark for many universities to accept students into their schools, will have an “adversity score” added that will factor in socio-economic backgrounds.

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The adversity score will use 15 factors, including the poverty levels and crime rates from the student’s high school and neighborhood, The Wall Street Journal reported. Those numbers will not be revealed, but colleges will be able to see them when reviewing applications, the newspaper reported. It is called the Environmental Context Dashboard, according to the College Board, the New York based nonprofit that oversees the SAT, the WSJ reported.

"It enables colleges to witness the strength of students in a huge swath of America who would otherwise be overlooked," David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, told NBC News in a statement. "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.”

The adversity score will be judged on a scale between 1 and 100, with 50 being the average. Any score above 50 would be evidence of hardship, NBC News reported, Race is not a factor in the calculations, 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, according to the network.

According to the College Board, Asian students scored an average of 100 points higher than white students, the WSJ reported. White students averaged 177 points higher than black students and 133 points higher than Hispanic students, the newspaper reported.

Children whose parents are wealthy or college educated did better than their classmates, according to the College Board.

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

The College Board conducted a beta test of the adversity score program at 50 schools in 2018, NBC News reported. The program will officially add 150 additional schools by the end of 2019 and will add more schools in 2020, the WSJ reported.

Some educators, however, are viewing the adversity score with skepticism, especially when using ZIP codes to identify adversity.

“It's concerning on a couple of levels," Bryan Rutledge, the director of college counseling at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, told NBC News. “It risks reducing something that is very human to a number and I don't think that's the most appropriate way to understand students.”

James Conroy, director of college counseling at New Trier High School in suburban Chicago, told the WSJ that focusing on diversity is already high.

“My emails are inundated with admissions officers who want to talk to our diversity kids,” Conroy told the newspaper. “Do I feel minority students have been discriminated against? Yes, I do. But I see the reversal of it happening right now.”

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