The College Board, which administers the SAT college placement exam, announced in May it was adding a new admissions tool called the Environmental Context Dashboard that “allows colleges to incorporate context into their admissions process in a data-driven, consistent way.” It quickly became known as the “adversity score.”
Adversity Score Adds ‘Context’ to College Applications
“This is a tool designed for admission officers to view a student’s academic accomplishment in the context of where they live and learn,” a spokeswoman for the College Board told Inside Higher Ed. The Environmental Context Dashboard “doesn’t provide information about the student. It provides information about the student’s environment. It puts a student’s SAT score and other academic accomplishments included in their college application in the context of where they live and learn.”
According to the College Board website, the new Environmental Context Dashboard includes:
- SAT Scores in context: Students’ SAT scores can be seen within the context of the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile of SAT scores from their high school.
- Contextual data on the student’s neighborhood and high school: Including typical family income, family structure, educational attainment, housing stability, and crime.
- Information on the high school: Including AP opportunity at the school (average number of AP Exams taken, average AP score from that HS); percentage of students who meet federal eligibility criteria for free and reduced-price lunch; rurality/urbanicity; and senior class size.
No Information About Race in Adversity Score
The adversity score will be measured on a scale of one to 100, as it seeks to quantify the relative level of hardships and disadvantages faced by students. It will not provide information about students’ race.
According to the College Board, a pilot program over the past three years resulted in “over 90% of users saying the Dashboard made it easier to incorporate contextual information and provided a more comprehensive view of the applicant.”
That includes providing the ability “to rely less on stereotypes, assumptions, or incomplete data and more on hard facts and statistics.”
Access to the Environmental Context Dashboard will be free to partnering institutions that commit to “[u]sing it in an appropriate and ethical manner within a holistic process to admit and enroll students, and using it only in admissions and scholarship decisions,” as well as making other related commitments.
Since the adversity score was announced, it has been greeted by support and criticism from education professionals and experts.
“Test makers long claimed that their products were a ‘common yardstick’ for comparing applicants from a wide range of schools,” Robert Schaeffer, director of FairTest: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, told Inside Higher Ed. “This latest initiative concedes that the SAT is really a measure of ‘accumulated advantage,’ which should not be used without an understanding of a student’s community and family background.”
‘Ultimate Benefit of Adversity Score’
“The ultimate benefit of the adversity score is that it provides a quantitative counterpoint to the SAT itself. The SAT has a talismanic character—to the point that people remember their score 30 years later—in part because of its seeming precision. Having a single adversity score to counterbalance the SAT is a healthy corrective,” Richard D. Kahlenberg, a Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, told The Atlantic.
“At Bulldog Tutors, we prefer to withhold broad-based judgment on the SAT and its evolution and instead work as always with families to best position students for optimal SAT test results and successful admissions to the right colleges and universities,” said Bulldog Tutors founder and President Mike Newcomer, advising families and students to contact Bulldog with questions about the adversity score.
“Students who come to us from educational institutions and backgrounds largely free of societal and environmental challenges have always sought assistance in achieving top scores on the SAT,” Newcomer said. “Nothing will change with that process, nor will things change for students who may have faced factors that would enhance their adversity score. Our Ivy League-educated SAT test prep tutors focus only on helping all students achieve the highest scores possible.”
The ‘Bulldog Advantage’ on SAT Test Prep
“The Bulldog advantage goes beyond the obvious benefits of learning from tutors who all scored in the top 1 percent on the SAT,” said Madison Masters, a Yale University graduate and the Lead Academic Coordinator for Bulldog Tutors. “We pair students with tutors based on the best personal and academic fit and carefully construct a study plan to optimize the time spent in sessions. Throughout the process of working together, we measure progress through regular diagnostic tests.”
While achieving SAT scores that meet or exceed the median benchmark of a preferred college or university is critical for students, there are many other aspects to building a well-rounded, accomplished profile necessary for students to become the type of candidates Ivy League schools and other top colleges and universities are seeking.
College Admissions: Beyond SAT Scores
Jessica Magro, Director of Admissions Consulting for Bulldog Tutors, knows firsthand how frustrating the college application process can beand what it takes to gain admission to a top college or university, having been accepted by all five Ivy League universities to which she applied—Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, Brown, and the University of Pennsylvania.
She has been guiding students through the process ever since, and students she’s worked with have gone on to attend highly competitive schools, including MIT, UC Berkley, NYU, and George Washington University, as well as Ivy League universities like Yale, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania.
“A great way to avoid panicking is to start the process early,” said Jessica, a Yale University graduate who is giving a free June 25 presentation in Madison, CT, on demystifying the college admissions process. “If the long-term goal is to be admitted into some of the most competitive universities in the country, you need to start the process of building a profile early.”
With offices in New Haven and Guilford, Bulldog Tutors provides the highest quality private tutoring, test prep, and college admissions counseling in Connecticut. Bulldog’s Ivy League-educated tutors have achieved top scores on every exam that they teach and take a personalized approach to instruction that targets students’ weaknesses and helps them succeed on admissions tests and in subjects where they may have been under-served by traditional educational settings.
For additional information, call the New Haven office at (203) 562-1000, or see the Bulldog Tutors website, https://test.bdt.rscdev.net.