College Board gives SAT adversity score a makeover

New admissions tool, Landscape, will still supply colleges with information about an applicant’s neighborhood and high school
By: | August 28, 2019
Since Trinity University in San Antonio began using The College Board’s Environmental Context Dashboard, the Texas liberal arts institution has enrolled two of its most diverse classes. The dashboard, which was also known as the SAT adversity score, has been retooled and renamed, Landscape, after facing criticism from several higher ed circles.Since Trinity University in San Antonio began using The College Board’s Environmental Context Dashboard, the Texas liberal arts institution has enrolled two of its most diverse classes. The dashboard, which was also known as the SAT adversity score, has been retooled and renamed, Landscape, after facing criticism from several higher ed circles.

Criticism has driven The College Board to overhaul a higher ed effort to consider the impact of neighborhood crime, high school quality, family income, property values and other factors as part of a student’s SAT score.

About 50 colleges and universities piloted the admissions tool, also known as the SAT “adversity score,” and enrolled some of their all-time most diverse classes. But Laura Owen, director of the Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success at American University in Washington, D.C., told University Business in June that she saw “a lot of red flags.”

Owen and others criticized The College Board for creating potential confusion because it had not planned to show students their adversity scores.

“I think the onus is on higher ed institutions to look at how they are contributing to, or trying to dismantle, the opportunity gap,” Owen told UB. “There’s acknowledgment that standardized tests have contributed in many ways to that gap.”

The College Board announced this week that it has replaced the score, which had been known formally as the Environmental Context Dashboard, with a new initiative called Landscape.

The updated tool will show college admissions officers how an applicant’s SAT score compares to other students at their high schools. It will also provide information about the applicant’s high school, such as free- and reduced-price lunch rates and number of students taking AP classes. Landscape also will compile crime rate, housing stability, median family income and other data from an applicant’s neighborhood.


Read more: Will SAT ‘adversity score’ help close higher ed opportunity gap?


But Landscape will not alter the applicant’s SAT score or take precedence over GPA, essays or high school transcript.

Students and their families will see the same information that is seen by admissions officers.

The College Board says Landscape gives admissions officers “consistent high school and neighborhood information” so admissions officers can fairly consider each student.

“We listened to thoughtful criticism and made Landscape better and more transparent,” College Board CEO David Coleman 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.”