SATs Invite Controversy With New 'Adversity Score'

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After a week full of terrible ass ideas comes the news that the College Board—the organization responsible for administering SATs—will bestow students with an “Adversity Score” based upon their socioeconomic status.


And if this sounds like another terrible ass idea, it’s because it is.

Per CNN:

The score takes into account information from the student’s background, but it does not include race.

Instead, it focuses on factors like their high school’s average senior class size, percentage of students eligible for free and reduce lunches and academic achievement in Advanced Placement classes.

A student’s environment at home and in his or her neighborhood, like the crime level, the median family income and family stability, will be factors as well.

Of particular note, colleges will be able to observe the scores when considering applications, but these scores will not be made available to students.

“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,” David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, said in a statement.

Listening to Coleman’s interview Friday morning on CBS This Morning, he was adamant that the intent is to contextualize the student’s learning environment and provided the following example:

“A college that we partnered with just let in a young woman from Mississippi. She happens to be a rural, white young woman at a very small school and her SAT score was pretty much average with the other applicants. But what they found when they looked at it in context is that it was 400 points higher than any other kid scored in her school. The neighborhood she lived in was rife with poverty. It’s a small school without a lot of advanced opportunities. But she made the most of it.”


To be explicitly clear, the “adversity score” is separate from the SAT score. It’s yet to be fully explained exactly how this “adversity score” is applied, so it’s impossible to determine if it’s either beneficial or a detriment to the academic progress of students. But considering the SATs are already laden with racial and cultural biases that penalize black students, the possibility that this “adversity score” could provide another mechanism to further discriminate against socioeconomically disadvantaged students is very real—especially considering that despite comparable SATs scores, the “adversity scores” from rich white kids would be markedly different.

Per the Wall Street Journal:

The new score—which falls on a scale of one through 100—will pop up on something called the Environmental Context Dashboard, which shows several indicators of relative poverty, wealth and opportunity as well as a student’s SAT score compared with those of their classmates. On the dashboard, the score is called “Overall Disadvantage Level.”

An adversity score of 50 is average. Anything above it designates hardship, below it privilege.


Plus the affluent have already proven the lengths they’ll go to game the college admissions system, so how does an “adversity score” provide an objective means to balance the odds?


As part of a beta test, fifty colleges participated in using the score last year. The College Board intends to expand that number to 150 institutions this fall, with continued expansion expected next year.



Aside from all the bullshit that could arise with this, who the fuck named the thing “adversity score” and “overall disadvantage level”?

If they had gone with “comparison score” or “local comparison level”, it would make a bit more sense (and would get less backlash).

In lots of ways, the kid with a great SAT score from a crappy school is more impressive than the same score for the kid from Lily White High, but this isn’t the way to handle it.