"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

College Board Chooses Dollars Over Fairness

In 2002 the College Board decided that allowing multiple takes of the SAT was unfair to those who could not afford the coaching and multiple fees involved in squeezing out scores good enough for Tier 1 colleges. Now as the Recession/Depression sets in for real and their revenue stream becomes threatened by fewer test takers and by the emergence of the ACT as a serious competitor, the College Board's $core-Choice has been pulled out of mothballs to become once again the law of the testing land. A clip from today's the NYTimes:

. . . .Some argue that it is really a marketing tool, intended to encourage students to take the test more often. Others say that, contrary to the College Board’s goal, the policy will aggravate the testing frenzy and add yet another layer of stress and complexity to applying to college.

“In practice, it will add more anxiety, more confusion, more testing for those who can afford it and more coaching,” said Brad MacGowan, a college counselor at Newton North High School in suburban Boston and a longtime critic of the College Board and standardized testing.

Many students take the SAT more than once, and the College Board automatically sends colleges the scores of every SAT test a student takes.

Under Score Choice, students can choose their best overall SAT sitting to send to colleges, but they will not be able to mix and match scores from different sittings. (Each sitting includes tests in critical reading, mathematics and writing, with a top score of 800 in each area.)

There is no additional charge if a student selects Score Choice, which also applies to SAT subject tests, formerly called SAT II and given in areas like history, sciences and languages.

Score Choice is not a new concept. From 1993 to 2002, students were allowed to take as many SAT subject tests as they wanted and to report only their best scores to the colleges they applied to.

In ending that policy in 2002, the College Board said that some students who had stored their scores had forgotten to release them and missed admissions deadlines. It also said that ending Score Choice would be fairer to low-income and minority students, who did not have the resources to keep retaking the tests.

Now, the College Board sees things differently.

“It simply allows students to put their best foot forward,” said Laurence Bunin, a senior vice president with the College Board. . . .
Earlier this month Newsweek reported that their reporters had unearthed an email that shows the new old policy was clearly linked to concerns for the continuation of the three-quarters of a billion in annual revenue that the College Board rakes in every year in "non-profit:"

. . . .Score Choice once again puts the College Board in the crosshairs of an endless debate over testing. Opponents of the new policy say it's financially motivated. The SAT has been losing market share to the ACT, another admissions exam, which already has a version of Score Choice. The Board denies the motivation, though an internal e-mail from February, obtained by NEWSWEEK, suggests otherwise. Laurence Bunin, general manager of the SAT, referred to "less kids taking SAT," thereby "threatening the viability of the program itself."

Officials at many elite schools excoriate Score Choice. In an e-mail discussion among them earlier this year, Pomona's admissions dean worried "how much more financially well-off kids could play the selection- and score-reporting game." Rice's admissions director mocked the College Board for professing to be motivated by concern over students. "I've never known the CB to cave into pressures from students," she wrote to colleagues. "What spin." . . . .

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