College Board faces sharp criticism on error disclosures
Another revelation about scoring errors on last October’s SAT exam has the College Board, the test’s owner, under heavy criticism even from admissions officers – a group that relies on the SAT and typically supports it.The SAT could also face legislative scrutiny: A New York state lawmaker said Thursday he plans to hold hearings about the scoring problem next month.With the academic world at the height of admissions season, the College Board first disclosed a scoring problem with the October version of the test on March 7. It then followed with two new wrinkles, including news late Wednesday that 27,000 exams had not been rechecked as previously thought by Pearson Educational Measurement, the College Board’s scoring vendor.Altogether, out of 495,000 tests, 4,411 students were given incorrectly low scores. One test was off by as much as 450 points on the 2,400-point exam, though the vast majority were off 100 points or less.More than 600 students got incorrectly high scores, but those will not be changed.Some admissions officers are exasperated.At a time when high school grade inflation makes it harder to differentiate between candidates, many say the SAT is regarded as a valuable tool – even while they emphasize it is just one factor among many. The big problem, some said, is how the problem was handled.”I think they botched it,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management at DePaul University in Chicago. “There’s already an over-hyped hysteria about the importance of the SAT in the admissions process. For them not to recognize that, but to take a nonchalant approach to the problems of the scores, is troubling.”Bruce Poch, vice president and dean of admissions at Pomona College in California, said “the issue is going to be the credibility of the College Board and how it’s managed it.”A growing number of schools, including Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, do not require the SAT. Dennis Trotter, the college’s vice president for enrollment and marketing and dean of admission, said the latest errors call into question the test’s “relevancy and dependability in the admissions process.””Now it begins to fall into the area of the integrity of the system,” Trotter said.In a telephone interview Thursday, College Board President Gaston Caperton apologized for the inconvenience the errors caused, but defended the decision not to alert colleges of possible problems when they first surfaced.The College Board says the problems were first identified after two hand-score requests, received in December, were rescored in late January. It asked Pearson to investigate in early February, but colleges were not notified until March. Pearson later said it believed rain and humidity might have caused answer sheets to expand and be scanned incorrectly.”Frankly, we would have created more questions, we would have created more anxiety,” by releasing information sooner, Caperton said. “We took the month of February to fully examine all of the tests, to check prior testing to be sure that we knew exactly what the problem was.”From now on, all exams will be scanned twice, among other new precautions, the College Board said Wednesday. It has also hired a consulting firm to perform a comprehensive 90-day review.Of Pearson, Caperton said: “We don’t expect it to ever happen again, but we stand by their work.”Meanwhile, New York state Sen. Kenneth LaValle, the Republican chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, called for hearings on the matter. Caperton said the New York City-based College Board has “nothing to hide.” More regulation could increase costs for students, he added.Founded by a handful of colleges in 1900, the College Board is a membership organization whose trustees are mostly high school and college administrators. It oversees a variety of programs and research initiatives to improve college access.But it is best known for the SAT and AP exam programs, and as those have expanded in recent years, the College Board has been criticized by some who work in admissions for excessive executive compensation and contributing to student stress by pushing the SAT. Its most recently available IRS 990 form, for the year ending last June 30, shows revenues of $485 million, up 93 percent over seven years.David Smith, vice president for enrollment management at Syracuse University, said the controversy has become a “straw man” for College Board critics. He said the real lesson of the episode should be that the test doesn’t count as much as many fear; at Syracuse, 166 scores were reported incorrectly, but not one decision was changed as a result.But others said the College Board will have to rebuild trust.”I feel like the other shoe keeps dropping, and we’ve had three or four shoes drop now,” said Trotter, of Franklin & Marshall. “They need to re-establish credibility. Every student that sits and takes the SAT now is going to be worried about, is the scoring going to be accurate?”—–Associated Press Writer Michael Gormley contributed to this report.—On the Net:http://www.collegeboard.com
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