College Board Bows to Pressure to Release Pupil Adversity Scores

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(Bloomberg) -- The College Board’s measures of the socio-economic backgrounds of university applicants will be made available to students and families, ending a controversy over the secrecy of the scores.

The so-called Landscape measures are created by the College Board and are aimed at providing universities with deeper insight into a student’s neighborhood and school, the organization said in a statement Tuesday. The scores are calculated based on factors such as the school’s location, the percentage of students eligible for free lunch, the average number of Advanced Placement exams taken and the median family income in a neighborhood.

The College Board’s move to provide environmental context comes amid a national debate over the fairness of academic test scores in evaluating applicants who come from a wide range of backgrounds. While colleges have voiced support for Landscape, the Board had earlier indicated that the scores might not be made public, raising questions about their credibility. But the organization best known for the SAT test said it will make the measures that colleges see available to students, families and their schools.

“We listened to thoughtful criticism and made Landscape better and more transparent,” David Coleman, chief executive of College Board, said in a statement. “Landscape provides admissions officers more consistent background information so they can fairly consider every student, no matter where they live and learn.”

Read more: College Board to Consider Sharing ‘Adversity Score’
Students from more wealthy families have long held an advantage in admissions by attending better high schools and taking expensive SAT test prep classes.

Earlier this year, prosecutors revealed a scandal in which families allegedly paid millions of dollars in bribes to coaches and administrators to get their teenagers into top colleges, including Yale and Stanford.

Landscape will provide colleges with a neighborhood and high school average, on a 1-100 scale. A higher value indicates a greater level of challenge related to educational opportunities and outcomes.

The measures don’t replace the individual information included in an application, such as grade point average, personal essay, or high school transcript. Nor do the measures alter a student’s SAT score.

The College Board also released guidelines that schools must follow when using the Landscape scores.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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