A second score soon to be included with SAT scores and sent to colleges and universities across the country will not affect a student’s ability to reach a perfect 1600.
What it will do is measure such things as poverty level and crime rate in a student’s neighborhood, as well as information about their high school, and through comparison, identify students who outperform their circumstances, according to College Board, the company that administers the SAT.
The score, which aims to take a student’s hardships into account, is developed on a 100-point scale. Students with higher scores are said to have faced higher levels of adversity.
The score could be a factor in college admissions at some schools as early as next fall, according to College Board.
But Cobb and Marietta educators and education advocates have balked at the new score, coined the “SAT adversity score” by media and critics.
“I guess the question I have for the smart people at the College Board is, ‘What does your ZIP code have to do with your aptitude?’” said David Chastain, chairman of the Cobb school board. “Because it’s the (Scholastic) Aptitude Test, right?”
Chastain said the score, which he called “ludicrous” and “a gimmick,” should be forgotten, and the college application process should be handled — metaphorically — as an audition for a symphonic orchestra.
“There’s a curtain. And the judges doing the audition, they don’t know the gender, they don’t know anything about the person who’s going behind the curtain to play their audition pieces,” he said, adding that he acknowledges some outside factors do play a role in sustained academic success. “All they have to evaluate is ... the sound of that instrument. ... It is all about performance.”
Chastain also said the score will likely result in unforeseen consequences. He said his concerns include how the College Board will collect its data on students or their neighborhoods, posing the question of whether the company will collect a database of student information, similar to marketing firms collecting consumer information.
“If the College Board had the power, should they be allowed to look at an applicant’s ... Facebook information with some kind of algorithm and somehow put that into the score?” Chastain said.
Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, said the score sends the wrong message to students.
“On the surface, it sounds great. Let’s level the playing field for students who have adverse backgrounds and situations that are beyond their control,” Jackson said, adding that her entire teaching career has been in Title 1 schools. “But it almost feels like it’s handicapping our students that come from lower-incomes and other adverse situations, because it’s saying, ‘Here, we don’t believe you’re as capable,’ and I know that to be untrue.”
Jackson said while she also agrees outside and environmental factors play a role in a child’s ability to perform academically, she remains undecided on how she feels about the adversity measure.
Marietta City Schools Superintendent Grant Rivera said his concerns stem from a lack of information on the score’s origins. Rivera said while he agrees that standardized test scores are “highly correlated to socioeconomic status,” the way College Board developed its algorithm and the research behind the adversity score have not been published.
Until that information is made public, he said, it is impossible to consider the validity and fairness of the score.
Jackson, Chastain and Rivera said it is also alarming that the score will only be provided to schools seeking applicants and not the students who receive the score, which is calculated by the College Board.
Cobb County School District Superintendent Chris Ragsdale declined multiple requests for comment on his opinion of the adversity score, instead providing a statement through a district spokesperson, Nan Kiel.
“The SAT and ACT exams are primarily used within higher education. In Cobb, we remain focused on providing our great teachers with tools, such as the (Cobb Teaching and Learning System), to ensure Cobb remains the best place to teach, lead and learn,” Ragsdale’s emailed statement reads.
Both Rivera and Chastain said colleges and universities have access to public data on socioeconomic links to students’ schools, neighborhoods and communities when they apply for college.
Rivera added that just as his district has implemented a free, one-semester SAT/ACT prep course at Marietta High School, school districts can implement programs and other efforts to correct issues they see occurring.
The score, deemed the “Environmental Context Dashboard” by the College Board, “enables colleges to witness the strength of students in a huge swath of America who would otherwise be overlooked, according to College Board CEO David Coleman. Coleman said the company rejects the term “adversity score,” and says the measure simply gives admissions officers context about an applicant’s neighborhood and high school.
“(It) shines a light on students who have demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness to overcome challenges and achieve more with less,” he said. “There is talent and potential waiting to be discovered in every community — the children of poor rural families, kids navigating the challenges of life in the inner city, and military dependents who face the daily difficulties of low income and frequent deployments as part of their family’s service to our country. No single test score should ever be examined without paying attention to this critical context.”
Coleman said the results from a pilot of the new score at 50 colleges and universities has shown students who are identified as having overcome challenges are more likely to be admitted to college.
He said the new scores will be offered to 150 colleges and universities this fall, and they will be “broadly offered” to schools across the country in 2020.
Along with the neighborhood socioeconomic factors, the score provides colleges and universities information about the school the student attended, including SAT performance, Advanced Placement course performance, average number of AP courses taken and percentage of students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch, according to Jerome White, a spokesman for the College Board.
White said the College Board uses its own and national data, including from the U.S. Census, to develop the score.
He said it does not alter a student’s SAT score and does not release data about each student’s family income or other factors. The only “student-level data” available to colleges and universities, he said, is standardized test scores.