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College Board Nixes Plan for SAT ‘Adversity Scores’

David Coleman, President and CEO of The College Board, speaks in Columbus, Ohio, September 22, 2016. (Jay LaPrete/Reuters)

The College Board has abandoned its plan to augment students’ SAT scores with an adversity score, a metric designed to control for privilege in the admissions process, after enduring months of criticism from educators and parents.

The College Board introduced a new metric in May that admissions officers refer to as an “adversity score.” The score, which falls between zero and 100, reflects 15 socioeconomic factors, such as the crime and poverty rates in a given students’ neighborhood. It’s being replaced by a policy known as Landscape that will measure various discrete socioeconomic factors without combining them into a single score.

“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 College Board, which administers the SAT, planned to incorporate adversity scores into 150 schools across the country after initially rolling out the pilot program with 50 schools this year.

The Landscape tool will examine such factors as the average SAT score in a neighborhood, average income level, high-school dropout rate, and average class size, among other factors. It is designed to allow college admissions officers to compare the background of similar applicants and consider how that may have affected their relative academic performances, according to the College Board.

The College Board has long tried to address persistent racial disparities in SAT scores. In 2018, white students scored an average of 177 points higher than black students and 133 points higher than hispanic students on the SAT, and were outperformed by asian students by an average of 100 points.

The institution is also facing a separate rash of criticism prompted by the exposure of a long-running college admissions scam in which students cheated on both the SAT and ACT.

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