The College Board plans to roll out a new "Adversity Score" along with all SAT score reports sent to colleges and universities. This score will consider 31 different factors, such as the percentage of local households in poverty and the percentage of local adults with less than a high school diploma. The College Board is currently testing the new system on 50 colleges and universities and plans to expand testing to 150 schools this fall. The purpose of this new score is to take into account the impact that background and demographics have on academic success.
Using data gathered from the College Board itself and the U.S. Census Bureau, the College Board will assign a number from 1 to 100 for each student, with 1 being the least disadvantaged and 100 being the most. The number is determined from two measures, one being the neighborhood environment and the other the high school environment. All the students in one high school will have the same high school measurement, and all students in one census tract will have the same neighborhood environment measurement.
Support for the Adversity Score
Although it has not been discussed until recently, SAT scores are largely impacted by the income levels of the student's family. Students from upper-class families are able to afford SAT prep tutors and classes, not have to work to support themselves and can pay to take the SAT multiple times. These factors give these students a clear advantage for the SAT and correspondingly, college acceptances.
The SAT is often one of the first parts of an application that colleges look at so it is essential that the scores are an accurate reflection of an applicant. The new Adversity Score makes it much easier for higher education institutions to even the playing field for applicants when it comes to financial barriers. Colleges and universities will now be able to quickly assess both a student's background and how that background has affected their high school academic performance.
As college is often seen as the best way to escape the lower class in the United States, we must put in more effort into making college more accessible to all Americans. Lowering the price of tuition and making it easier for the student's from lower-income families to get into college are basic steps we must take to further decrease poverty levels. As our economy becomes less reliant on manual labor, it is essential that the greater population is able to get the required education for the modern forms of employment.
Criticisms Against the Adversity Score
One critical flaw in the new Adversity Score is that does not take into account the student's family's economic status. This means that in actuality the score is more of an approximation and not a clear picture of the amount of "adversity" a student has faced. For example, consider a student from a low-income family who has been given a scholarship to attend a private high school. This student's adversity score would take into account the lower-class neighborhood environment and the upper-class high school environment to produce an average level of disadvantage. Is it ethical or accurate to label this student's situation as average disadvantaged?
The score also does not take race or immigration status into account. Students from racially or ethnically diverse backgrounds face more obstacles in the academic realm due to the institutional racism that still lingers in our society. Other oppressed groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community and religious minorities, also are not considered in the SAT's adversity score.
It's Better Than Nothing
While the new score has its controversies and is not yet a perfect picture of adversity, it is better than the current system: if your SAT score is good enough, then we might take a glance at your FAFSA forms. The current method of processing college applications is too quick to turn away students because of a too-low SAT score without considering how the student's background has impacted their academic performance. The new SAT Adversity Score allows colleges and universities a convenient and standardized way to better initially judge an application.
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