AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Now here in the U.S., the College Board is dropping its plan to assign a so-called adversity score to students who take the SAT. As NPR's Bobby Allyn reports, the number was intended to help colleges and universities understand more about the backgrounds of low-income students, but a backlash from parents and school counselors killed the idea.
BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Eighteen-year-old Diaraye Diallo grew up in Denver. She's black and Muslim and one of four siblings raised by a single mom. She's starting college in the fall and says the idea of admissions officers judging her by her GPA and SAT score was frustrating.
DIARAYE DIALLO: Because there are a lot of other things that limit peoples' potential, such as money, such as having access to people to tutor you for the SAT.
ALLYN: And this is where the College Board's new formula was supposed to step in. It crunched data about a student's background and neighborhood - the crime rate, poverty, average levels of education - and then spit out a single number. It became known as the adversity score. But the pushback was swift.
ZENIA HENDERSON: It just seemed sort of like the higher the score, you know - what? - the poorer you are?
ALLYN: That's Zenia Henderson of the National College Access Network. She says parents and school counselors bristled at the idea that one single number could capture a student's whole story. And then there were other what-ifs.
HENDERSON: Someone can take that information and really use it for wrong to say wow, this, you know, this student comes from this kind of community and area. They might not be a good fit for our school.
ALLYN: After listening to criticism like this, College Board CEO David Coleman said you know what? We made a mistake. The plan was scrapped. Coleman says they will no longer score students' disadvantage. Instead, they'll send raw socioeconomic data to college admissions officers.
DAVID COLEMAN: And leave that interpretation to the admissions officer. In other words, we're leaving a lot more room for judgment.
ALLYN: Questions about what role a student's background should play in applying to college come amid a larger national debate. Earlier this year, the college admissions scandal drew attention to the difference wealthy parents can make. That backdrop isn't lost on Coleman.
COLEMAN: And, you know, the founding mission of the College Board is it's not about your connections, it's not about who you know, it's about the work you've done.
ALLYN: Diallo, meanwhile, is happy the College Board will still be giving school data about a student's background. She wished that had been a factor when she was applying to college.
DIALLO: Because I'm a horrible test taker.
ALLYN: But it worked out for Diallo, who was offered a full ride to Carleton College. She starts this fall.
Bobby Allyn, NPR News.
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