Q: What are college-bound teens to do when the adults in charge of guiding their futures behave less maturely than they do?
A: Get informed!
Confession: I am a standardized test agnostic. That is, I equally doubt that anything is known or can be known about the actual validity or relevance of either test discussed in this blog. That said, here’s the deal.
The College Board, parent company of standardized test SAT, and ACT Inc. are at each others’ throats once again.
In this week’s skirmish, ACT Inc.’s CEO Marten Roorda has come right out and accused the SAT of falsifying data. It doesn’t take a critical thinking genius to conclude that this may have something to do with the fact that millions of dollars are at stake – the two companies are in a serious smack down competition for testing dollars.
Roorda recently posted a blog questioning the methodology and validity of The College Board’s concordance table, noting that not only has the table not met the validity standards of The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, but The College Board did not make any attempt to work with ACT Inc. while formatting a conversion that includes ACT scores. He notes that The College Board’s response to his blog post, submitted by its senior vice president for research Jack Buckley, did not dispute his scientific arguments against use of the new concordance. Ouch.
Not surprisingly, this blog has incited a series of back and forth statements between The College Board and ACT Inc. in what vaguely resembles a series of temper tantrums.
Students need to be aware of the limitations of score conversions, since inaccurate information could lead to incorrect assumptions about where they can plausibly expect to get accepted. Without a complete concordance study with both organizations cooperating, the absence of such data merits pause. It’s a really good time to check in with a college admissions professional about what scores on either exam really mean in terms of applying to particular schools you are longing to attend.
This latest fiasco falls on the heels of the announcement of the new Pre-ACT, ACT Inc.’s version of the PSAT. You should know that many college counselors have questioned ACT Inc.’s motives for releasing yet another (potentially irrelevant and confusing) test, especially one that is not connected to financial merit aid. In related tidbits for your awareness, the launch of the new SAT has resulted in lost scores in at least one location, confused proctoring standards, and more complaints among industry professionals than has been previously reported.
The SAT redesign this year left a supposed 91% of college counselors wary of recommending the test, as there had been no established baseline for scoring offering predictive validity to the exam. Let’s all remember, predictive validity is the entire reason for a standardized testing process. Allegedly. (Sorry. Let’s not go there…)
It is no small surprise that fairtest.org and the list of test optional colleges continues to grow as an answer to greed-induced antics of the standardized testing duopoly. In late 2015, George Washington University, with 10,000 undergraduates, became the largest top 100 private university to opt out of standardized test requirements. Major liberal arts colleges like Bowdoin, Smith and Pitzer are now test optional, as well as nationally acclaimed universities like Wake Forest, University of Texas, and American U. In all, there are over 850 colleges and universities in the US that do not require testing as of spring 2016, and the list grows year by year.
While this is a promising sign of trends to come, until test optional admission becomes the norm, these two testing giants need to grow up and work toward building reliable tests and a conversion measure that serves students’ best interests.
Teens today are unfortunately coming of age in the time of a for-profit duopoly that capitalizes on college applicants. Teams like the one I am privileged to lead at Gate College System have gone to extraordinary lengths in our mission to equalize access. We aim to level the playing field for students with limited access to test preparation, and provide a holistic approach to this process that equally addresses student needs pertaining to GPA strategies, applications support, and essays mentorship. (GATE is an acronym: Grades, Applications, Testing and Essays.) When it comes to testing we don’t promote one test over another, because frankly my 26-member team of Ivy League professionals and I in many ways see them both as naked emperors.
In truth, this recent ACT versus SAT mudslinging campaign just provides further evidence that teens need to be made aware of what’s impacting their future. As more of them awaken to the profit considerations driving these matters, they at least have a shot at making informed decisions.
After all, higher education isn’t just big business. College is a big deal with a big impact on real lives. Isn’t that what really matters?