SAT adversity score gets mixed reactions from students

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The College Board is adding an adversity score to measure a student’s socioeconomic background. The 'score' is intended to give college admissions offices another frame to look at SAT scores, but it’s getting mixed reactions.

The adversity score is will gauge how much adversity a student had to overcome to score well on the SAT. Students who take the exam all agree the test is grueling.

“There's a lot of things that happen to people that don't happen to other people, so to actually factor that in, I think that would help,” said Marcus Tarver, a senior at USF.

The adversity score would gauge a student from one to 100, based on 15 factors including the crime rate in their neighborhood, the quality of their high school, the median family income of the student’s community, and the parents’ education level. The median score is 50, with the scores closer to one measuring privilege and scores approaching 100 showing disadvantage.

Only colleges would see the score, giving them another lens to look at an application. It adds to the debate about fairness and merit in standardized testing after the recent college admissions scandal involving wealthy parents paying their child’s way into school.

“I just come from a middle-class family. My mom's a teacher, so that helped me a lot throughout taking those tests,” said Katelyn Taylor, a sophomore at USF. “But if other people don't have that privilege, you never know how hard they worked compared to other people to get where they are.”

Other college students had mixed reactions to the new score.

"It just sounds like another way to try to quantify people's positions and give people bonuses," said one student from New York City.

SAT prep tutors with Infinite Edge Learning Center in Tampa said they do their best to prepare students no matter what background they come from.

“I don’t have a fully developed opinion on that yet because I'm not aware of all the parameters that go into it. But if it's something that reduces societal inadequacies, I'm all for it,” said tutor James Amos, after learning of the new adversity score.

The SAT measures how well a student’s math and verbal skills are, but it is not all that is considered in college admissions. The College Board said the adversity score measures how resourceful a student is given their circumstances.

“Even when they are struggling, I really think personally that anyone as long as you put in the work and dedication you can definitely be successful in whatever you want to achieve,” said Korosh Jabbari, an SAT prep tutor.

The College Board tested out the adversity score in 50 colleges first, and it will be rolled out to 150 schools later this year with more coming in 2020.