New SAT scores take into account a student's family background. There's considerable backlash.

College admission has gotten a lot of much-needed scrutiny this year. The college admission scandal isn’t just changing who’s going to star in Hallmark movies. It might end up changing (but not necessarily fixing) a broken SAT system.

The College Board will now add an adversity score to a student’s SAT scores, which rates a student’s hardship based off of 15 factors. “There are a number of amazing students who may have scored less (on the SAT) but have accomplished more,” David Coleman, chief executive officer of the College Board, told the Wall Street Journal. “We can’t sit on our hands and ignore the disparities of wealth reflected in the SAT.”

How much crime, poverty and vacant houses are in the area where the student lives if the student comes from an ESL family or has a single parent, and how many AP classes are offered at the student’s school now all come into play. The score will be sent to colleges, but the student will not know what their adversity score is. The student’s race or how much money their parents make is not a factor that impacts their adversity score.

The point of the adversity score is to contextualize a student’s SAT scores, because students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds tend to have higher SAT scores. The College Board is trying to level the playing field, but the adversity score doesn’t come without its problems, which Twitter was quick to point out. Namely, the adversity score doesn’t take into account the sacrifices a parent may have made to get their child into a better school so they can go to a better college.

Of course, some people want to do away with standardized testing altogether, as it’s not always an accurate reflection of how smart someone is, but rather, if they’re good at taking tests. There’s been a movement to make standardized tests an optional part of college admission, and some colleges already make it optional to submit SAT or ACT scores. The reasoning is that grades should be enough to show how well a student will do in college. Putting a score on someone’s potential seems to be inherently flawed.

Adversity scores were tested by 50 colleges. This year, adversity scores will be offered to 150 colleges, and in 2020, the scores will be more broadly available. Hopefully, the families who sacrifice to get their kids a good education (without resorting to bribery) won’t be unfairly dinged by the new system.

 

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