Forum 2017: Environmental Context Dashboard and the Future of College Admission
Forum 2017: Environmental Context Dashboard and the Future of College AdmissionAbby Jacobs, Director of Communications, College Board
The College Board has developed a comprehensive environmental context dashboard tool that will allow admission leaders to make more informed decisions about which students to admit. In a session led by College Board researchers and practitioners from institutions who have utilized the dashboard in its pilot phase to make and analyze admission decisions, participants learned about the intended uses of the tool, what it might look like in practice, and the potential to change the way we think about holistic admission.
The environmental context dashboard provides two types of information. The first is information that compares a student’s achievement on the SAT and AP in the context of how other students scored at their school. The second type of information are measures of the environment where a student lives and learns that indicate the obstacles or challenges a student may have faced in their high school and neighborhood. the dashboard includes an overall measure that indicates the level of adversity that a student has faced throughout their high school education.
Greg Perfetto, Executive Research Scientist at the College Board, opened the panel discussion with a question: what does it mean to come from an adverse background? If we cast a net based on educational disadvantage, what do these students look like?
The environmental context dashboard looks at students’ environments through the lens of their neighborhood and school. Did the student grow up in an area associated with high crime rates and low income households? At what rate did their peers graduate high school and go to college? What was the average test score at their high school? How does this compare to other high schools in the area? And most importantly, what does this information mean for an admission officer reading this student’s application?
Kedra Ishop, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management at University of Michigan, Mike Bastedo, Professor and Director at Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at University of Michigan, and Bob Mundy, Director of Admission at Notre Dame both used the dashboard in varying capacities during the experimental pilot. They offered their insights on what this tool looks like and how they might use it in practice.
Mundy was understandably nervous to introduce another layer of work for his staff who read thousands of files from applicants each year, and was surprised at the overwhelmingly positive feedback he received from his staff. Most rated the tool “very” or “extremely helpful” in assisting with the holistic admission process.
Ishop’s used the tool at Michigan to take a retroactive look at past admission decisions over the last few years. She discussed the ways in which the tool shed light on how the admission process is helping to achieve diversity goals, and where adjustments are needed. Her staff found the neighborhood information particularly helpful. At a school like Michigan, it is difficult to know well all of the areas from which students are applying across the country and internationally, and the indices from the dashboard tell a story about an applicant’s environment that readers may not get from school profiles or application materials. “The success of this tool requires institutional will to want to find the space to bring in more students who face adverse backgrounds,” said Ishop.
Erica Bever, Senior Director of Admission Innovation at the College Board fielded questions from audience members that focused on the roll out of the new product and how it may impact schools on the K12 side who are hoping to better understand what their students look like within this model.
She confirmed that these are implications the College Board is currently looking into as it moves through the second phase of the pilot, and that the dashboard is slated to be fully operational by fall 2018.