SAT exam 'adversity score' to be dropped after criticism

Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The College Board said that it is rethinking the adversity score it recently introduced in college admissions.
Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The College Board said that it is rethinking the adversity score it recently introduced in college admissions.PHOTO: NYTIMES

(NYTIMES) - The College Board, the company that administers the SAT exam, said on Tuesday (Aug 27) that it would withdraw its much-debated plan to include a so-called adversity score on student test results, saying it had erred in distilling the challenges faced by college applicants to a single number.

The adversity score was made up of the average of two ratings between 1 and 100 - one for the student's school environment and the other for the student's neighbourhood environment - that indicate the obstacles a student might have overcome, like crime and poverty. The school and neighbourhood scores will still be provided to admissions officers, along with other socioeconomic information.

The change was made after a storm of criticism from parents and educators followed the announcement of the plan last spring. Many of them said it falsely suggested that a student's achievements and challenges could be quantified as the maths and verbal scores on the SAT are.

The tool was officially introduced this year and is being used by about 100 to 150 colleges and universities this fall, the College Board said. The company had plans to roll it out more widely next year.

Mr David Coleman, chief executive of the College Board, said on Tuesday that the board had heard the criticism and was bowing to it. He said that the company had always believed that students should be judged by more than a number, whether a test score or a disadvantage score, and that admissions officers should also consider context like personal essays, teacher recommendations and family background.

"I think it is a retreat from the notion that a single score is better," Mr Coleman said. "So in that sense, we've adopted a humbler position. That's admitting that the College Board should keep its focus on scoring achievement. We have acknowledged that we have perhaps overstepped."

The score was part of a larger rating system called the Environmental Context Dashboard that was provided to admissions officers along with a student's SAT scores.

Mr Coleman defended the overall goal of the project, which he said was to provide colleges with a consistent way of judging the neighbourhoods and schools that students came from. Admissions officers lack high school information on about 25 per cent of applications, according to the College Board, and the new tool is filling that gap.