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College Board replaces plan for SAT student ‘adversity score’

The College Board has walked back plans to add an “adversity score” for students taking the SAT college admissions test, an idea of creating a score using a combination of factors including their socioeconomic background.

College Board said in a statement on its website Tuesday that it would no longer display a single “score” that combined high school and neighborhood information about students taking the SAT, an exam used to grant admission by many colleges and universities.

The company that administers the SAT had plans to expand a pilot program called the Environmental Context Dashboard to 150 additional schools by the end of this year, up from a test run at 50 schools. The change came at a time of increased criticism about the role of wealth and race in college admissions and education.

But the plan to assign a single score faced backlash from some parents, students and educators. The new tool in its place has been renamed Landscape.

“We listened to thoughtful criticism and made Landscape better and more transparent,” David Coleman, the CEO of College Board, said in a statement announcing the change. “Landscape provides admissions officers more consistent background information so they can fairly consider every student, no matter where they live and learn.”

The tool looks at such factors as whether the student’s school is in a city, suburb or rural area, senior class size at the high school, percentage of children eligible for free and reduced priced lunches, average SAT scores, as well as participation and performance in Advanced Placement courses.

The tool will also take into consideration neighborhood and high school factors, such as college attendance, household structure, median family income, housing stability, education level and crime.

College Board said that the tool is meant to provide “consistent information about a student’s neighborhood and high school, helping colleges consider context in the application review process.”

The adversity score, called Environmental Context Dashboard, previously took into consideration a student’s neighborhood, family and school, and then assigned the student a number based on those factors.

The score would fall on a scale between 1 and 100, with an average score of 50 — anything above that would show hardship.

“The idea of a single score was wrong,” Coleman told The Associated Press. “It was confusing and created the misperception that the indicators are specific to an individual student.”

Coleman told the AP some wrongly worried the previous tool would alter the SAT results.

In a section of its website, College Board said that Landscape “does not measure adversity and never will.”

“It simply helps admissions officers better understand the high schools and neighborhoods applicants come from,” College Board said.

College Board said that beginning next year, students, parents and counselors would be able to access the same information about their schools and neighborhoods as colleges could see using Landscape.

Admissions officers currently using Landscape said that they lacked high school information for about 25 percent of applications, according to College Board.

Earlier this year, about 50 people were charged in a sweeping $25 million college entrance exam cheating scheme, which exposed how some affluent parents paid thousands of dollars to boost their children’s chances of going to elite colleges through bribes.

Actress Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty in May in the scandal, while actress Lori Loughlin was due to appear in court in connection with the scheme in Boston on Tuesday.


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