College Board eliminates ‘adversity score’ after receiving criticism

Victoria May

After pushback from parents and students, the College Board is now getting rid of its plan to assign students taking the SAT a single score that captures their level of economic hardship. 

The "adversity score" was introduced by the College Board this May in an effort to assess extraneous circumstances encountered by students taking the test, according to a press release. The score would consider the kind of neighborhood the student comes from, whether the student receives free or reduced lunch, the level of crime and average educational attainment in the student's area.

College Board CEO David Coleman said in a statement that considering all of the factors that conflict with a student*s ability to take a test to the best of their ability was problematic, prompting the College Board to eliminate the score.

"The idea of a single score was confusing because it seemed that all of a sudden, the College Board was trying to score adversity," Coleman said in the statement. "That's not the College Board's mission. The College Board scores achievement, not adversity."

Coleman said the College Board is now implementing a tool called Landscape, which provides admissions counselors with the same information that the adversity score assessed without assigning a score. The College Board is leaving analysis on a student's background to university officials, according to a press release.

"We listened to thoughtful criticism and made Landscape better and more transparent," Coleman said in the statement. "Landscape provides admissions officers more consistent background information so they can fairly consider every student, no matter where they live and learn."

Jeremy Martin is the senior policy analyst for the Charles A. Dana Center, a UT organization focusing on student success in math and science. Martin said taking into account a student's social and economic hardship is incredibly important when making admissions decisions.

"AP and SAT tests tend to underestimate students'  readiness for college-level work," Martin said. "If you look at other factors or predictive indicators, the surrounding circumstances could actually prove that students might be more than ready for (college-level courses). A lot of research has shown that these tests assess students as being unprepared for certain courses even though the student could be capable of doing well at a college level, should you take into account outside factors."

The Adversity Score was previously hidden from students and families. All students and families will be able to see all of their school and neighborhood information under their College Board profile with Landscape, according to the press release.

"There definitely is importance in being able to understand a student's socioeconomic background when looking at their test scores," said Hunter Pischke, an electrical and computer engineering sophomore. "However, I don't think that assigning an overall score based on the student's background is the most accurate way to gauge a student's performance because there are so many issues to take into account when looking at such a complex background. You can't fit that all into one score."