Credit: Sofia Clark | Mustang News

The College Board is implementing a change to their SAT test in the midst of a national debate over the fairness of college admissions. For the first time, the SAT will assess students on their cultural, educational and socioeconomic backgrounds in what is widely being referred to as an “adversity score.”

The Environmental Context Dashboard is only being rolled out to select schools this year. Cal Poly Admissions has not began discussions about using this new metric, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier.

The new data will take into account 15 different factors related to a student’s background, such as the crime rate and poverty level of their neighborhood, according to The College Board. It will also account for contextual information about a student’s particular high school, including the average number of Advanced Placement courses taken and the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.

The score is a number from 1 to 100, where anything above 50 indicates a background of hardships. The rate is calculated using student’s personal information obtained by The College Board and publicly available information from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The rating will not take into account a student’s ethnicity, according to The College Board. 

The new metric, which is part of what The College Board calls an Environmental Context Dashboard, will only be reported to college admissions officials. Students will not be able to see their “adversity scores.” Rather than affecting student’s SAT scores, the data in the Environmental Context Dashboard will be provided to universities as part of a larger package of information on each student.

The College Board | Courtesy

The College Board has piloted their Environmental Context Dashboard in 50 colleges and plans to roll out the program to 150 colleges this year and more widely in 2020. 

In an interview with EdSurge, College Board President Jeremy Singer said the goal of the metric is to evaluate the context from which a student is coming from.

“An SAT score of 1400 in East L.A. is not the same as a 1400 in Greenwich, Connecticut,” Singer told EdSurge. “And so, if we can get environmental factors that the student could have overcome or thrived on, and take into context, [that will help them].”

The College Board’s trial run of the program has already seen results, according to Singer. Using the tool, Florida State University increased their number of underrepresented students from 37 percent to 42 percent this year alone.

“That may not sound big, but a 5 percent growth in the students that they’re targeting by using this tool is significant,” Singer said.

The implementation comes in the midst of an ongoing debate over the fairness of the college admissions process, which was recently reignited after dozens of wealthy parents, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, were found guilty of paying for their children’s admission and/or test scores. The debate has also been sparked by a batch of conflicting court cases surrounding affirmative action.

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