The College Board is rolling out a new system that assigns SAT test-takers a score based on the environment they grew up in.
Dubbed the Environmental Context Dashboard, the score will give prospective colleges another point of information that takes into account the students’ socioeconomic background as well as things like the rigor of their high school, according to a news release from the College Board.
“We are proud that results from our pilot of the tool show that using the Environment Context Dashboard makes it more likely that students who demonstrate strength and resourcefulness in overcoming challenges are more likely to be admitted to college,” said David Coleman, the chief executive officer of the College Board.
The move aims to even the playing field so that striving students from low-income backgrounds get full consideration by college admissions officers, even if their overall scores aren’t as high as those of wealthier peers.
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The news comes at a time when the SAT and its rival college exam, the ACT, have been criticized for favoring wealthy students who have access to more resources to prepare for the test and a higher quality high school education.
The program has been in development since 2015, and it’s currently being used at 50 colleges, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal. It’s set to expand to 150 in the fall.
The score is calculated through factors such as the poverty level or crime rate in students’ neighborhoods. It does not factor in students’ race.
The College Board will withhold the scores from the students themselves, and will allow only the universities considering applications to the adversity index.
Both the ACT and SAT have been under public pressure in recent months following the biggest-ever college admissions scandal in which Rick Singer helped students cheat on these exams to game their way into elite universities. The extent of the cheating included faking disabilities for extra time to take the test to having stand-ins take the test for the students.
The move is also sure to draw criticism from those critical of considering race in college admissions. There have been several lawsuits in recent years challenging affirmative action, the most high profile of which is a case between Students for Fair Admissions and Harvard University. The former alleges the university’s use of race is unfair to Asian Americans. Harvard has argued it doesn’t discriminate against anyone.
More generally, many universities have started to reconsider requiring the use of these exams, the most prominent among them the University of Chicago.
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