The College Board, the company that writes and administers the SAT college entrance exam to thousands of American high schoolers, says it's revamping its scoring process to include an "adversity score" alongside the SAT's standardized measurements of verbal and mathematical prowess, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The "adversity score" will take into account the social and economic backgrounds of SAT takers, and will be awarded based on a 15-factor analysis, The Wall Street Journal reports. Students will be judged on "the crime rate and poverty levels of the student's high school and neighborhood," the student's "housing environment," the student's parents' income and education levels, and whether the student had access to higher-level and advanced placement (AP) classes.
"A score of 50 is considered 'average,'" according to the WSJ. Scores above 50 indicate hardship. Scores below 50 indicate that a student is "privileged." College admissions advisers will access the scores through the SAT's online score reporting system, in a tab labeled "Overall Disadvantage Level."
It appears students will not be able to view — or, more importantly, challenge — their adversity scores.
The College Board justified the new adversity score by claiming that low SAT scores aren't always the result of poor academic performance, and that colleges, who are relying less and less on diversity quotas, should be aware of any exculpatory evidence that might explain a poor SAT performance.
"There are a number of amazing students who may have scored less (on the SAT) but have accomplished more," David Coleman, CEO of The College Board told the WSJ. "We can't sit on our hands and ignore the disparities of wealth reflected in the SAT."
So far, about 50 schools, including Yale University, have experimented with the SAT adversity score in a beta test that began last year. The College Board expects to add an additional 100 schools to its roster this year.
Yale, at least, has been happy with the results. "This (adversity score) is literally affecting every application we look at," a Yale admissions dean told the WSJ. "It has been a part of the success story to help diversify our freshman class."
Ultimately, the adversity scores also help colleges and universities skirt limitations put on how they can assess an applicant's more personal qualifications.
The adversity score may become especially necessary in an era when schools are facing greater scrutiny in how they admit students. In addition to recent scandals, laying bare a pay-for-play scheme that had wealthy and celebrity parents paying millions to non-profits in order to secure berths at the nation's top schools, Harvard University is facing a lawsuit alleging that the school's admissions department deliberately discriminated against highly-qualified Asian and Asian-American applicants by giving them "low 'personal' ratings that take into account traits such as leadership and likability," according to CNN.
The Supreme Court has wavered on whether schools can use quotas to help create a more ethnically diverse student body, but cautioned schools not to make self-reported application data a deciding factor on whether to admit a student. The adversity score might allow admissions advisers to assess a student's background without asking specific questions and without openly classifying members of their applicant pools based on their own internal system.