College Board, the nonprofit responsible for shaping much of today’s college admissions process, recently announced its plan to gradually roll out the inclusion of the “Environmental Context Dashboard,” also referred to by many as an “adversity score.”
This score, per College Board’s descriptions, would provide “general” information about the socioeconomic climate surrounding a student’s school and neighborhood. The index would take into account factors such as poverty level and crime rates. This addition is a reflection of a wide-reaching goal in many corners of education to look at the “whole student,” instead of boiling them down to just a test score and a transcript.
The score has been in various stages of development with different universities helping to pilot it. College Board’s most recent plan is to have the index rolled out in full by 2020.
Despite the fact that this would impact high school students preparing for college, guidance counselors who are instrumental in that process know very little about this new addition. In fact, College Board’s current plans do not include sending this score to guidance counselors or students at all. Only college admissions departments will be privy to this index as of right now.
Local high schools and guidance departments advised that they didn’t know how much, if at all, this new feature would benefit northeast Indiana students.
“We heard a little bit about it and we’re digging in and trying to get more information,” Mary Moore-Bowers, guidance counselor at Prairie Heights High School in LaGrange County, said. “We didn’t really have a say in what College Board is doing.”
It seems as though colleges in the area are a bit more aware of the adversity index, as the scores currently are expected to be sent only to college admission departments. What area universities intend to do with this new score still varies from campus to campus.
Grace College has met this new score with enthusiasm. According to Grace’s dean of admissions, Mark Pohl, the school intends to incorporate this adversity score into its metrics for evaluating applications when the score is made available to all universities. In the meantime, Grace’s admissions department are reading up on the score and working on ways to adequately utilize the score into its decision making process.
“We’ve always taken the whole person into account,” Pohl said. “We’re really glad about the SAT adversity index. We see this as another helpful too in making admissions decision for Grace College.”
Whether it is due to lack of clarity from College Board, or a feeling that the adversity score is unnecessary, many northeast Indiana universities do not have plans to incorporate the adversity score.
Scott Goplin, vice president of enrollment management at Trine University sees the good intentions woven into this index, but he feels as though the score is lacking.
“I applaud the intent to help schools improve the socio-economic distribution of their student populations, but I am uncomfortable with the reliability and consistency of the 15 factors being used to calculate the score, the supporting information not being shared, and the lack of transparency…,” Goplin said. “This is one time when Trine will not blaze a trail to use the new scoring until the College Board has addressed these issues or we have seen more experience from the use of adversity scoring methodology.”
Purdue University Fort Wayne has decided outright that it will not be accepted for consideration in its admissions process. Ken Christmon, associate vice chancellor for admissions at PFW, explained that admissions have already spent plenty of time looking into more than just a student’s test scores by incorporating their grade point averages and other forms of student achievement.
“We’re going to continue to do what has brought us success and has afforded people to express and advance the mission of this institution,” Christmon said.
Christmon also added that people like him who have been in admissions for a long time have concerns about the score and how it could potentially backfire.
“The concern in the field is that it would also be used in different ways that may disadvantage a student,” Christmon said. “At the end of the day we need to see how this score is being used and how it’s helping students or not.”
Indiana Tech, per Brian Engelhart, vice president of marketing and communications, has “no immediate plans,” to use the adversity index, and would like to learn more about this new factor to decide whether it would truly help applicants.
“It’ll be most important for schools that are elite, highly selective,” Engelhart said. “We’ve always been a place of access and opportunities with students from a broad range of backgrounds.”
Other universities in northeast Indiana did not respond to requests for comment on whether they intend to include the adversity index into their admissions.