Stop the College Board’s New SAT “Adversity Score”


Recently, the College Board announced that they developed an algorithm that would give each student a score, officially dubbed as the Environmental Context Dashboard. This score is based on a combination of factors that include the student’s neighborhood, high school, and family environment, and it will be shared with colleges when students send their SAT scores. The College Board is keeping the details of this algorithm under wraps, and it is unclear how they calculate these scores. (Learn more in our previous blog post.) In other words, the College Board has somehow figured out a way to quantify and objectify the adversity that each student has faced in life. If that sounds wrong to you, you’re not alone. Countless voices in the media have raised their concerns over how this will affect the way colleges judge each student’s experiences in life:


Students will not get to see their score. Despite application reviewers having full access to students’ scores, the algorithm is completely opaque on the students’ side. This means that there is no way a student can ensure the accuracy of the score and whether or not it actually reflects their circumstances. It hardly seems fair that students’ college applications will include information that they don’t know about.


It does not account for students with unique paths. This score unfairly judges students who may not follow the traditional path. For example, this algorithm would actually penalize low income students who attend academically challenging magnet, charter, or private high schools. These students may be on scholarships or financial aid to attend these rigorous schools, but their adversity score would compare them directly to their wealthier classmates from school.


Adversity cannot be boiled down to one number. On its most simple level, this score suggests that adversity can be objectively measured. Universities constantly emphasize that they look at students’ applications holistically, taking into account essays, recommendations, interviews, and other factors in which students have the opportunity to share about their adverse experiences. It’s clear that universities believe that students should be given a chance to share the details of their challenges through their own words. This score does exactly the opposite by fitting students into boxes based on factors that do not always show the full story.


Sign this petition to help stop the College Board from implementing this unclear and unfair adversity score.

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