In response to research that shows a higher average score is associated with a higher family income, the SAT has created an Adversity Index rating which has received mixed reactions from both school officials and students.
Standardized college admissions testing, like the SAT, have long been seen as an equalizer among those who are disadvantaged and those who are privileged. Although all students have the opportunity to achieve the same score, statistics in the 2018 SAT Suite of Assessments report show higher scores are associated with higher family income.
The SAT’s response to this dilemma is an introduction of a numerical rating, from zero to 100, of the adversity experienced in a student’s neighborhood and high school. The index is generated using federal education and census data about education, income, family structure, jobs and housing, as well as College Board data about college enrollment. It will be expanded to 150 colleges and universities later this year and will be available to all colleges in 2020.
According to the College Board, it will be up to the particular college as to how and whether or not the information from the index is used. Some students believe that this initiative should be used in admissions, as it could level the playing field between the privileged and poor communities.
“I think TAMU using this index would allow for a more diverse group of applicants in each year’s admissions pools,” urban planning and development sophomore Dianna Cervantes said. “So many passionate people I know would love to be a part of different programs the university offers and are completely turned away because of standardized test scores that favor those who can afford expensive tutoring.”
The SAT’s attempt at helping disadvantaged students has been likened to affirmative action by many. But, the College Board leaves out one major determining factor in it’s new index: race — a factor that some students feel cannot be encompassed by the SAT’s Adversity Index as it is.
“[The Adversity Index] doesn’t go far enough to be compared to a policy like affirmative action,” political science junior Edgar Rivera said. “There are other factors that disproportionately affect POC that I don’t think the new index takes into account, whereas affirmative action addressed those factors directly.”
Affirmative action, although not used by Texas A&M, has met many legal road bumps and was replaced in many Texas colleges by the “Top 10% Rule,” that guarantees admission to all state-funded universities for Texas students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
Secondary counselor at Hawkins ISD and Class of 1999, Amanda Weiss said that although this adversity score does leave out race as a determining factor for disadvantage, the relationship between adversity and race is obvious.
“I don’t think that any of us can argue the fact that there is a strong correlation between a lot of the determining factors with adversity index and the minority population,” Weiss said. “A school who admits students with a higher adversity score would probably also increase their admittance of minority students.”
In fact, the 2018 SAT report that indicated an achievement gap between family incomes also indicates achievement gaps between ethnicities as a critical priority among educators. But, Weiss said using an adversity score in college admissions to bridge these achievement gaps may only solve a symptom of the achievement inequality, rather than the inequality itself.
“Rather than focusing on an adversity index that would help the scores of these disadvantaged students, we should focus on why these students are not scoring as highly as their privileged counterparts,” Weiss said. “We need to look at how we can bridge these gaps in the classroom rather than trying to bridge these gaps with college entrance exam scoring.”
Freshmen who are admitted to A&M have an estimated average SAT composite score of 1320, and for students who score under 1210, admission chances are considered low according to collegesimply.com.
Although it is unclear how or if A&M will use this Adversity Index, Weiss said using it for admissions purposes will hurt students who don’t meet admissions requirements more than it would help them.
“Entrance criteria is set using student success statistics, so letting a student in that does not meet the scoring requirements because of their adversity score would only hurt the student in the long run,” Weiss said. “I would like to see colleges using this adversity score, not to determine whether a student should be admitted or not, but to identify students who are disadvantaged, and provide them support so that they can raise their score to meet the set admission requirements.”