New 'adversity score' on SAT aims to measure socioeconomic background of students

In an effort to level the playing field for all college applicants regardless of their socioeconomic background, the College Board plans to assign an "adversity score" to each student taking the SAT, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The adversity score is intended to give college admissions boards a better understanding of their applicants by contextualizing the environments in which each student applicant learned.

To calculate the adversity score, the College Board developed an index of 15 factors that span across three main categories: neighborhood environment, family environment and high school environment. These factors include neighborhood crime and poverty rates, parent/guardian income and education level, as well as curricular rigor.

Each student will be assigned a numeric value from 1-100 to signify their adversity score. An adversity score of 50 is average, while anything above signifies privilege and anything below signifies hardship.

The decision by the College Board to implement a score determined by class and opportunity as part of the SAT comes hot on the heels of the college admissions scandal, which has had many questioning the fairness and efficacy of college admissions processes and what role race and class should play in those processes, if any at all.

The College Board, however, has been concerned about the effects that income inequality can have on test scores for years.

In 2018 results, Asian students scored 100 points higher than white students, who scored 177 and 133 points higher than black and Hispanic students, respectively.

"There are a number of amazing students who may have scored less [on the SAT] but have accomplished more. We can't sit on our hands and ignore the disparities of wealth reflected in the SAT," David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, told the Wall Street Journal.

Fifty universities have already begun using the adversity score through a beta test that was rolled out last year, and the College Board plans on expanding to 150 universities this fall before a broad roll out in 2020.

Yale University is one of the institutions that considered students' adversity scores last year, and the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Jeremiah Quinlan, said that the adversity score factors into every application they consider.

Over the past several years, Yale has made a significant push to diversify their student body that has resulted in the admittance of nearly double the number of low-income students and students that are the first in their family to attend college. Quinlan told the Wall Street Journal that the adversity score "has been a part of the success story to help diversify our freshman class."

The College Board began developing the adversity score back in 2015 in response to colleges requesting more objective data about their student applicants.

Speaking to the merit of the adversity score, David Coleman, College Board CEO, said, "Since it is identifying strengths in students, it's showing this resourcefulness that the test alone cannot measure."