What to Look for in this month's ACT & SAT Score Reports

for immediate release, Monday, August 17, 2009


Average ACT scores for the high school class of 2009 are scheduled to be released on Wednesday, August 19.
Historically, SAT scores for “College Bound Seniors” become available one week later. This year’s data will likely generate intense scrutiny due to increasing concerns about the tests’ utility in evaluating an ever more diverse pool of college applicants and the rapidly growing number of schools adopting test-optional admissions. Here are four major issues the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) will be tracking.

Did the ACT overtake the SAT as the nation’s most popular college admissions exam? Since the introduction of a “new” SAT in 2005, the number of students taking the ACT has risen rapidly while SAT testing volume has remained relatively stagnant (comparison table available on request from FairTest). Nearly 94% as many students in the high school class of 2008 took the ACT as the SAT. This year, the ACT was required for all graduates in six states — Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee and Wyoming — possibly pushing its total volume over the SAT. From FairTest’s perspective, the ACT is a different test from the SAT, not a better one, although the ACT is somewhat more consumer-friendly.

What do ACT/SAT score trends indicate about the effectiveness of “No Child Left Behind” in enhancing college readiness and narrowing achievement gaps? Students in the high school class of 2009 were in fifth grade when the controversial federal mandates became law. If NCLB’s approach were effective, should there not be significant improvements in admissions exam averages as well as a narrowing of historic score differences between demographic groups? Similarly, has NCLB reduced the strong correlation between college admissions test scores and family income?

Does a gender gap still exist in admissions tests even though females earn higher grades than males when matched for identical college coursework? Since the sole purpose of these exams is to forecast first year undergraduate performance, a fair and valid assessment would not consistently underpredict the academic capacity of young women. The problem, according to independent researchers, is bias in the tests’ time-pressured, multiple-choice format, which both the ACT and SAT have failed to address.

Will ACT/SAT controversies lead more schools to drop their admissions testing requirements? Since 2005, more than 50 colleges and universities, including dozens of nationally competitive schools, have adopted “test-optional” policies (chronology available on request from FairTest). That brings the total number of accredited, bachelor-degree granting institutions which do not require all or many applicants to submit test scores for admissions to more than 830 (see http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional).

Look for charts summarizing major score data and trends, as well as news releases addressing the questions listed above, at http://www.fairtest.org once ACT and SAT results are public.

Please feel free to call me (239 395-6773) at any time to discuss these or related testing issues.