January 20, 2009

Cornell Rejects SAT Score Choice Option

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Cornell will not be participating in a new College Board initiative, which would allow high school students to select which SAT scores get sent along with their application. In doing so, the University maintains its current policy in which all applicants must submit all their SAT scores along with their application.
The College Board initiative, called Score Choice, is set to begin with the tests administered in March 2009. The first affected class will be the college class of 2014. Under Score Choice, students will be able to select the scores they wish to send to colleges by test. The policy applies to both the SAT Subject Tests and the SAT, although students will not be able to send separate scores for the critical reading, writing and mathematics sections.
The University has expressed its opposition to the new program. Assistant Provost Doris Davis, who heads the admissions office, said in an interview, “We have decided that we will maintain our current practice and our current policy, which is that students send us all their scores.”
However, the University may have a problem sticking with the old policy. In an unpublicized section of the College Board website designed for college admissions officers, colleges are asked to report their SAT policy. Schools can pick amongst several options, including “Single Highest Test Date” and “All Scores Required for Review.”
According to the website,“When a student selects a particular institution for score reporting, not only will that institution’s practice be prominently displayed, but the scores corresponding to that practice will be highlighted for the student.”
If a student attempts to deselect a score requested by the college, “they will receive a warning message that they are deselecting a requested score.” Despite the warning, the web site said, “Colleges and universities will only receive the scores that students send them. The College Board will not provide scores to colleges against students’ wishes.”
A customer service agent at the College Board said over the phone, “The college has the option that they do not like Score Choice, but it will still be up to the student.”
Another agent confirmed, “It’s up to the students. The colleges don’t have a chance to access how many times the students have tested.”
Even if the University requires all scores to be sent, College Board has not revealed any mechanisms that would prevent dishonest students from lying about the number of tests they have taken.
Cornell is one of several universities that have announced their objection to Score Choice, along with Stanford, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania. Although the practical questions of abstaining from Score Choice remain to be answered, the College Board announcement has ignited a wide debate in the world of higher education.
According to their website, College Board consulted with 3,600 students to arrive at the Score Choice policy. They reported “students in all income and ethnic segments indicated their strong interest in having more control over their scores.”
In a release, College Board said that the policy will “reduce student stress and improve the test-day experience.”
Mira Patel ’11, said, “I guess as a senior I really would have liked to be able to pick which scores to send to colleges.”
Ian Waters ’10 said that students who are willing to take the test multiple times should be rewarded rather than burdened by their earlier scores. “I remember taking [the SAT] and never wanted to take it again,” Waters said, “If someone’s willing to take the test so many times, they deserve the points boost.”
Some individuals are more cynical about the College Board’s justifications.
“It undermines the holistic approach we take to admissions. The time you would spend studying for the standardized test, study for your class, go read a book, go get involved in a community service activity,” Davis said, “If there was a reason that was more in the interest of students, it hasn’t been well-articulated.”
College Board has a lot to gain from Score Choice. According to Inside Higher Ed, the move represents an attempt to keep up with the ACT, which has been gaining market share in recent years. The ACT allows students to pick which scores to send to colleges.
Each administration of the SAT costs the student up to $45, so if Score Choice results in more students retaking the SATs, College Board stands to increase its profit.
Some students argue that allowing students to retake the SATs without penalty creates an uneven playing field. Score Choice does not differentiate between a score of 2000 earned on the first try and the same score earned only after ten attempts.
Daniel Cahalane ’12 congratulated Cornell’s rejection of Score Choice, saying that the old policy “means people who are actually intelligent get in here, not just the people who try ridiculously hard.”