What to Look For in Next Week’s SAT Score Report and U.S. News College Rankings

for immediate release, Thursday, September 8, 2011


Next Tuesday, September 13 U.S. News & World Report issues its annual “Best Colleges” guide ranking higher education institutions. The next day, Wednesday, September 14, the College Board will release annual SAT scores for the high school class of 2011. Here are the major issues the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) is tracking.

What do SAT scores indicate about the effectiveness of “No Child Left Behind” in enhancing college readiness? Students in the high school class of 2011 have experienced the full scope of NCLB. They were in third grade, the first that must be tested, when the controversial federal law was signed. Its sponsors said NCLB’s test-and-punish approach would produce significant gains in educational performance. However, ACT scores released last month showed college readiness scores have been flat.

Do SAT score trends show the reduction of historic score differences between demographic groups promised by high-stakes testing proponents? ACT reported that racial score gaps are, in fact, increasing (see http://bit.ly/q8tmQq). Also, look at how score gaps between wealthy and low-income test-takers are changing on the SAT.

Has the ACT unequivocally overtaken the SAT as the nation’s most popular college admissions exam?  Recognizing that the number of students taking the ACT was larger based on a historically consistent measure, the College Board inflated its 2010 SAT test-taking total by including additional administrations, thus maintaining a narrow lead. Since introduction of a longer, more expensive SAT in 2005, the number of students taking the ACT has risen rapidly while SAT volume has been stagnant (comparison table available on request).

What percentage of top-tier colleges and universities are now test-optional? According to the 2010 U.S. News college guide, more than 100 institutions ranked in the first tier of their respective categories have ACT/SAT optional or test-flexible admissions policies. The total includes 56 top liberal arts college (list available on request). How will new reporting categories and the addition of for-profit schools to the rankings change these numbers?

Will escalating ACT/SAT controversies lead more schools to drop admissions testing requirements? Later this month, Teachers College Press will publish SAT Wars: The Case for Test-Optional College Admissions, to which FairTest contributed a chapter. Since 2005, nearly 80 colleges and universities, including dozens of nationally competitive schools, have adopted “test-optional” policies (chronology available on request). The number of accredited, bachelor-degree granting institutions which do not require all or many applicants to submit test scores now tops 860 (http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional).

Look for news releases addressing the above questions and charts summarizing major SAT data and trends at http://www.fairtest.org once the information is public.

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