- The College Board announced that it is dropping the "adversity score" from Landscape, a tool it is piloting and plans to make available to colleges widely in the fall of 2020 to help them contextualize applicants' achievements.
- Formerly called the Environmental Context Dashboard (ECD), the tool previously generated a composite score to gauge the hardship students face, using factors such as local crime rates, their high school's academic rigor and their neighborhood's housing values. The new tool offers separate scores for applicants' high schools and neighborhoods, and the College Board made its methods for calculating each public.
- Pushback on the use of a single score immediately followed the initial news in May, although individual scores for schools and neighborhoods were available then, too.
"The idea of (colleges) looking at more than just test scores and GPA is pretty ingrained in the public, and I think what (people) get concerned about is the things they don't know," said John Barnhill, assistant vice president for academic affairs at Florida State University, which is one of between 100 and 150 colleges and universities that the College Board expects will pilot the tool this year. "Part of the pushback on the ECD was 'We don't know what this is. How is it going to help or hurt my son or daughter?'"
Some feared the measure would impact students' scores on the SAT test, which the College Board administers, though that wasn't something the measure affected. Others took issue with creating a standardized benchmark for adversity.
Landscape captures information many colleges already assess, including the percentage of students in their high school qualifying for free- and reduced-price lunch and the size of their senior class.
"That's all stuff we've tracked over time but perhaps (has not been) as consistent or as available as they've made it," Barnhill said. "By being more transparent with what it is, I think that will make people more comfortable with it."
Separate scores for schools and neighborhoods can also help admissions officers dig deeper, he added, such as by spotting a student from a wealthy neighborhood attending a lower-resourced school, or vice-versa. "It could have been hidden if someone just focused on the overall (adversity) score, and I think those kind of differences are more readily apparent in this breakout as they have it now," he said.
Because each student received an adversity score, it caused confusion over whether the information about high schools and neighborhoods was also unique to each applicant, the College Board said in an email to Education Dive. Those two scores are general, so information for all applicants from each is the same.
As colleges look beyond their historical markets to attract new students, being able to access such information for students from areas with which admissions officers aren't familiar is important, the College Board noted in the statement explaining the change.
Landscape is also becoming available to institutions at a time when both public and private universities are being challenged for their use of affirmative action, and institutions that consider race in admissions are being encouraged to find alternative tactics to creating diverse classes.
Other ways colleges are trying to equalize admissions is by having committees review individual applications, eliminating requirements that students submit standardized test scores, and letting students submit a wider array of application materials, such as multimedia pieces.