Faced with the messy realities of entrenched privilege, the College Board is trying to find a quantitative solution.
Students taking the SAT will soon be subjected to a new kind of assessment. On top of their math and verbal results, indicating what knowledge they were able to summon internally while taking the exam, they’ll be placed along a scale of adversity: a representation of the external. By calculating students’ social, economic, and family background, the College Board hopes to add new context to students’ test scores. Evaluating students on factors far beyond their control might seem like a novel attempt in leveling the playing field, but in some ways, it actually brings the test closer to its conflicted origins.
The adversity index was first piloted by 10 colleges in 2017. It consists of 15 factors meant to approximate the degree of disadvantage a student has faced, including the crime rate in her neighborhood, the rigor of her high-school curriculum, and the estimated education level of her parents. Students don’t see their numbers, but admissions officers do, and have full discretion in whether or not to consider them when making admissions decisions. One of the pilot colleges, for example, only used the score when deciding whether to reevaluate an applicant it had initially rejected.