SAT will now assign an 'adversity score' to each student

There has already been a beta test involving 50 colleges. Now the College Board is expanding this to 150 schools. The idea is to give admissions offices some indication of the student’s socio-economic background in addition to their score on the standardized test. From Fox News:

The new adversity score is being calculated using 15 factors, including the crime rate and poverty level from the student’s high school and neighborhood, The Wall Street Journal first reported.

Students won’t be privy to their scores but colleges and universities will see them when reviewing applications…

“There are a number of amazing students who may have scored less (on the SAT) but have accomplished more,” David Coleman, chief executive of the College Board, said. “We can’t sit on our hands and ignore the disparities of wealth reflected in the SAT.”

“This (adversity score) is literally affecting every application we look at,” Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale, told WSJ. “It has been a part of the success story to help diversity our freshman class.”

One thing that won’t be a factor in determining the new adversity score is race. From CNN:

According to the Journal, the score does not account for a student’s race. Students are rated on a scale of 1 to 100 based on publicly available data from records such as the US census, Coleman told the paper.

A score of 50 would be considered average, the Journal reported, while a number above 50 indicates hardship, and a number below 50 privilege…

The College Board has been concerned about income inequality influencing SAT results for a long time. White students scored higher on average than black students and Hispanic students in 2018, while Asian students scored higher on average than white students. And students whose parents are wealthy and college-educated typically did better than their peers.

All of this comes against the backdrop of the college admissions scandal involving some famous names who paid big bucks to get their kids into good schools. More importantly, there’s the ongoing Harvard admissions case in which the school has been accused of using personality ratings to limit the number of Asians (who have the highest test scores) and increase the percentage of blacks and Hispanics admitted to the school.

I’m torn over this. On the one hand, I think schools should be making some effort to recognize students who overcome personal adversity to achieve high scores. If there are two students with the same good grades and very similar scores and one kid clearly worked a lot harder to get there, rewarding that extra effort makes sense.

However, the way this is set up seems designed to punish students for “privilege.” If a student has great grades and test scores but comes from a wealthy family that lives in a wealthy neighborhood, he’s still a great student with great test scores. He should get into a good school and shouldn’t be penalized because his parents also did well and went to great schools and got good jobs. That would be punishing the student for someone else’s extra effort.

I guess my worry is that schools seem likely to get carried away with this in a way that penalizes success. I don’t think that’s a good idea or a good message.