The SAT Is Adding an 'Adversity Score' That Will Quietly Let Colleges Track a Student's Wealth and Privilege

The score will indicate a test taker's socioeconomic status and educational access, and it will be visible only to college officials.
The SAT Is Adding an 'Adversity Score' That Will Quietly Let Colleges Track a Student's Wealth and Privilege
Image credit: Getty Images via BI
3 min read
This story originally appeared on Business Insider

In the aftermath of the recent $25 million college-admissions scandal, the SAT will include a new measure for privilege beginning this year.

Along with scores measuring math and reading comprehension, the test will include an "adversity score" that indicates a test taker's social and economic background. College Board, the New York nonprofit that administers the test, rolled out a beta version to 50 colleges last year and found it led to greater nonwhite student enrollment, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Adversity scores will be measured on a scale of 1 to 100, with under 50 indicating privilege and over 50 indicating socioeconomic hardship. The score will be invisible to students -- it will be reported only to college officials, according to The New York Times. The Journal reported that race will not be a factor in the score.

The number will look at 15 factors, including the crime rate in a student's neighborhood and whether the student was raised in a single-parent household. College Board did not reveal the exact metrics the adversity score measures but said it pulls from public records such as the US Census. The measure will officially roll out this year to 150 schools and more broadly by 2020.

"We are proud that results from our pilot of the tool show that using the Environment Context Dashboard makes it more likely that students who demonstrate strength and resourcefulness in overcoming challenges are more likely to be admitted to college," David Coleman, the CEO of the College Board, said in a statement to Business Insider.

Outrage over the $25 million college-admissions scandal, in which two college-exam administrators were charged with taking bribes to inflate SAT and ACT scores, spurred conversations about how wealthy students get an unfair advantage in the college-application process. The US Department of Justice reported that parents paid $15,000 to $75,000 to William Singer, who is accused of being the admissions-scandal ringleader, in exchange for manufactured test scores.

College Board told INSIDER that the company has an extensive process to ensure SAT scores are valid, though reports have found that superrich parents can still legally pay $300 an hour for "admissions expert consultants" or donate millions to elite colleges.

College Board released a statement immediately following the scandal that promised to offer a new approach to the SAT that would take into account the inequalities students face heading into the test.

"The SAT was built to break down barriers to admit students of merit, not just those with connections and influence," Coleman said. "With today's grade-inflation epidemic in many wealthier schools and districts, an objective measure has never been more essential."

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