New College Board Policy Stirs Controversy

By Staff

February 16, 2009

A new policy allowing students to report only their top SAT scores has sparked discussion and debate throughout the country about its possible benefits and drawbacks.

The College Board's policy, called Score Choice, is meant to reduce stress for high school students taking the SAT, a standardized test required for most college admissions throughout the country. Score Choice allows students to choose which SAT test scores are sent to institutions of higher learning. The program is optional, free, and will be available to students taking the SAT this March.

"It allows kids to put their best foot forward and gives them flexibility in choosing their scores," noted Joyce Green, head guidance counselor at North High School in Riverside, California, who was quoted in The Press-Enterprise.

Yet a significant loophole can potentially increase student anxiety: College admissions offices can choose to override Score Choice and request to see all scores from multiple tests.

According to US News and World Report, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, and Stanford have all rejected the Score Choice program.

"We want to discourage students from taking the SAT more than once or twice and believe that programs like Score Choice encourage applicants with resources to take the SAT excessively to improve their scores," a Stanford admissions director explained in US News and World Report.

Other universities, including Harvard, the University of Chicago, and the College of William and Mary have accepted the policy.

Skeptics argue that the policy will encourage students to take the test multiple times, thereby boosting revenue for the College Board. In addition, opponents claim that the move is meant to lure students away from the ACT, a rival admissions exam, which already has a version of the same policy.

But Alana Klein, spokesperson from the College Board, told The Press-Enterprise that the policy was not motivated by financial gain. In addition, she asserted, the College Board does not recommend taking the test more than twice, because research indicates that any subsequent score gains will be insignificant.

In a related story, the Star-Telegram in Texas reports that in the last three years, about 45 of the nation's colleges dropped standardized test scores entirely as a requirement for admission. According to a September report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, that brings the total number of institutions of higher learning not considering SAT and ACT scores to more than 280.

Critics contend that families who can afford private tutoring and testing have an unfair advantage, and some claim that the tests are biased against women and minorities.

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