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College Board

The College Board announced changes to its "adversity index" --- even before it was used.

The changes continue the College Board's effort to provide colleges with more information about the high schools attended by students who take the SAT. With more colleges dropping the SAT as an admissions requirement, the College Board is under pressure to show that it is aware of worries that the test favors those who are better off.

When the adversity index was originally announced -- after years of pilots -- in May, it received considerable criticism.

David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, said, "We listened to thoughtful criticism." He added that Landscape, as the system is now called, "provides admissions officers more consistent background information so they can fairly consider every student, no matter where they live and learn."

The changes are:

  • The system will be called Landscape.
  • While the previous system provided one score summarizing information about the student's high school and neighborhood, the new system will provide separate scores on neighborhood and high school. (The College Board released its methodology for the two scores.)
  • The scores will be available to students, not just to the colleges to which they are applying.

The measures will be added to the SAT next year and will not replace anything currently on the test.

Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, and a long-standing critic of the College Board, said, "It's good that the College Board listened to the widespread criticism of their original plan and canceled efforts to assign a simplistic adversity score to each applicant. But, because the Landscape formula is based on overall averages from a student's high school and neighborhood, it still does not tell admissions offices much about the obstacles any given individual faced. And most of the data being repackaged by the College Board was previously available from high school profile reports and other sources."

It is unknown what share of colleges will seriously use Landscape.

Kaplan Test Prep recently conducted a survey of admission directors and asked them if they supported or opposed the adversity index (not Landscape).

Fourteen percent strongly supported it, 24 percent somewhat supported it, 4 percent somewhat opposed, 2 percent strongly opposed and 56 percent said they didn't know.

The survey also asked if admissions directors planned to use the test. "Definitely yes" got 3 percent, "probably yes" 15 percent, "probably not" 17 percent, "definitely not" 13 percent and "too early to tell" 52 percent.

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