SAT exam reportedly to give students "adversity score" in bid to level playing field

By Brian Pascus

/ CBS News

A new "adversity score" assigned by the College Board on the SAT exam will reportedly reflect students' family income, environment and educational differences in an effort to level the playing field in the highly competitive college admissions process. The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that 50 schools used the new indicator as part of a beta test last year and the College Board plans to bring more than 150 schools into the fold this fall.

The College Board is a New York-based non-profit that is in charge of overseeing the SAT. A dialogue about wealth and privilege in educational institutions exploded this year in wake of the college admissions scandal, in which 33 parents were charged with paying huge sums of money to have their children cheat on the SAT and be admitted into top colleges under the false pretenses of being student athletes.

This new "adversity score" number is calculated by assessing 15 factors that can better help admissions officers determine an individual student's social and economic background, the Journal reported. These factors are first divided into three categories: neighborhood environment, family environment and high school environment.

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Each of the three categories has five sub-indicators that are indexed in calculating each student's adversity score. Neighborhood environment will take into account crime rate, poverty rate, housing values and vacancy rate. Family environment will assess what the median income is of where the student's family is from; whether the student is from a single parent household; the educational level of the parents; and whether English is a second language. High school environment will look at factors such as curriculum rigor, free-lunch rate and AP class opportunities. Together these factors will calculate an individual's adversity score on a scale of one to 100.

According to the Journal, a score of 50 is considered "average." Anything above 50 proves "hardship" while anything below 50 is considered "privilege." The College Board did not immediately respond to a CBS News request for more information about the methodology behind its calculation of the adversity score and if other factors are considered.

The Journal reported that this new score will appear alongside a student's SAT score and will be featured in a section labeled the "Environmental Context Dashboard." The adversity score's formal name on the dashboard is "Overall Disadvantage Level," but it has been colloquially called the "adversity score" by college admissions officers, per The Journal's article.

The SAT is a standardized test that is broken into verbal and math sections. There is also an SAT essay section. The test has a total score of 400 to 1600, with each math and verbal section being scored 200-800. The SAT essay scores range from 2-8.

First published on May 16, 2019 / 10:03 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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