College Board Emphasis on Small Score Changes Encourage SAT Misuse by Colleges, Scholarship Programs

for further information:
Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773
Christina Perez (857) 350-8207for use along with annual SAT score release, August 27, 2002

“The College Board’s annual focus on small differences in SAT scores encourages admissions and financial aid offices to misuse test results, thus undermining educational equity,” according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). “At the same the College Board uses one or two point changes as a hook to promote their flawed test, company officials turn a ‘blind eye’ to institutions which make eligibility decisions based on whether one additional SAT question was answered correctly.”

Recently FairTest exposed a U.S. Naval Academy policy of requiring arbitrary minimum SAT scores before an applicant will even be considered. This Monday, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), FairTest and other groups filed a federal civil rights complaint charging that Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarships discriminate against African Americans and Latinos through unjustified SAT and ACT score requirements.

Both practices violate the College Board’s own test use “Guidelines” which instructs officials to, “Guard against using minimum test scores unless used in conjunction with other information such as secondary school performance and unless properly validated” and to “Ensure that small differences in test scores are not the basis for rejecting an otherwise qualified applicant.” Answering one additional SAT item correctly adds about ten points to a student’s score.

About a dozen states use test scores to determine eligibility for “merit” scholarships. The total number of colleges using SAT minimum “cut offs” for admission or financial aid is not known because few schools publicly admit the practice, but the College Board’s own College Handbook lists nearly two dozen. When FairTest called on the College Board to stop publishing cut-off requirements and withhold scores from schools which misuse them, College Board President Gaston Caperton denied any problem existed.

A fact sheet documenting problems with the SAT as well as a list of close to 400 four-year colleges that do not require substantial numbers of applicants to submit test scores before admissions decisions are made is available here.