With New Adversity Index, the College Board Fails to Address Inequity


Lara Garay

Beginning next year, the College Board will report an Environmental Context Index along with students’ SAT and AP test scores.

Ella Spitz, Opinion Editor

About a month ago, the College Board announced that their new “Environmental Context Dashboard” will be implemented next year, affecting all SAT and AP test takers. The Dashboard puts a student’s SAT scores in context with other students at their school by providing the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles of scores at their school as references. It also collects data on a student’s neighborhood and school district. This data includes the median family income, the rate of poverty in households, the percentage of students who receive free or reduced lunch, and so on. The College Board collects this data from census tracts given to every school and from the US Census Bureau. Census tracts are statistical sections of a county and have an average of about 4,000 inhabitants in each. All students living in the same census tract will have the same neighborhood data and all students attending the same high school will have the same high school data. The College Board’s intention in creating this new admission tool is to promote a more equitable college admissions process, but it is clear that they will not achieve that goal.

With its emphasis on the promotion of standardized tests, the College Board has contributed significantly to the inequity of the college admissions process. The Board was founded in December of 1899, meaning that it took the Board over 100 years to make an attempt at minimizing inequity. Not only is this change long overdue, but highly ineffective considering the inequitable damage the Board has caused since its founding.

Not only is this change long overdue, but highly ineffective considering the inequitable damage the Board has caused since its founding.

Take a look at the adversity here at CRLS. As said before, all students will have the same data as a reference for the College Board to contextualize test scores. According to the 2007-2009 American Community Survey (ACS), the median family income was $88,238, and 10% of families were below the poverty line. Additionally, in 2011, the rate of graduation at CRLS was 91.4%, while the state rate was 83.4%. While adversity can apply to the school or certain neighborhoods of Cambridge, it does not realistically apply to every student nor every neighborhood. Despite the number of data points the College Board collects or census surveys the school gives its students, an individual’s adversity is unquantifiable.

The Dashboard should be perceived as even more flimsy due to its lack of regard for the race of SAT and AP test takers. In order to achieve equity, or to even make a significant step in the right direction, one must not only acknowledge discrepancies in race, but highlight them. Racial diversity should take the spotlight when discussing unfair advantages, especially in the education system. Some, like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, believe that factoring in race to achieve equity only further enforces internalized oppression among minorities. While that may be true in some cases, it will always be crucial to first take a step back and give regard to the existence of oppression and its negative effects that follow victims for their entire lives. To disregard racial discrimination, especially when trying to solve issues of inequity, is counterproductive and practically impossible.

The College Board adversity checks are a band-aid to a gunshot wound. The Board has inflicted too much damage in its over 100 years of existence for the Dashboard to even merely resemble a solution to the issues of inequity in America’s education system. Of course, the responsibility to make educational opportunities in America more equitable does not lie solely with the College Board. However, it is safe to say that if the Dashboard was a test, the College Board failed.