Matt’s Past SAT/ACT News Update:

Matt O'Connor

Oct 24, 2017


Diane Rado of the Chicago Tribune writes about the decision by Illinois to adopt the SAT as its statewide HS assessment. But there is concern about the SAT scores the state is setting as minimums to demonstrate proficiency:

New Illinois high school testing benchmarks prompt concern and confusion


The state will use scores from the spring SAT administered to all public school juniors and set benchmarks to measure how students are performing, as required by federal law

But controversy is already brewing because the state’s minimum score to meet standards is higher than the SAT’s college readiness scores. In some cases, a student could be considered ready for college classes yet fall short of Illinois’ standards for what students should know.

“This discrepancy is going to be very difficult for us to explain to our parents, teachers and especially our students. How can a student be simultaneously college ready and not have made the cut?” said Kevin O’Mara, a former high school superintendent who is now the executive director of the High School District Organization of Illinois.

But the SAT generally says students who score 480 in reading and writing and 530 in math are considered prepared for key college classes.

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post has written about a controversy that has arisen due to massive cheating and test security concerns overseas, particularly in Asia: International counselors blast ACT and College Board, citing ‘lack of confidence’ over testing


An organization representing nearly 3,000 school counselors working around the globe just issued a scathing statement rebuking the College Board and ACT Inc. for their handling of international administration of the SAT and ACT college admissions exams, citing a “lack of confidence” in the testing giants.

The International Association for College Admission Counseling, with members in 100 countries who work with hundreds of thousands of overseas students and U.S. citizens living abroad, attacked the two organizations for frequently canceling tests in countries at the last moment and then failing to communicate in a timely fashion. The statement (see in full below) also said U.S. students now “have an advantage in the U.S. admissions process” because more test administrations are given every year and overseas students have fewer chances to take the tests.

The first of two recent articles by Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed, More Colleges Let Applicants Self-Report Test Scores:

[Excerpts]: Washington University in St. Louis last week announced that it will from now on let applicants self-report their test scores on the SAT or ACT, rather than having testing agencies submit official records. Only when an applicant has been admitted and decides to enroll will they be required to have an official record sent.

Wash U joins about 25 other colleges that allow applicants to submit their own scores. The move appears to be gaining favor at colleges that are competitive in admissions. Colby College and the University of Chicago announced such shifts last year.

The move toward self-reporting scores (effectively eliminating either the fee or the work of applying for a fee waiver) reflects a growing sense among admissions professionals that they should remove every possible barrier to someone applying to college.

Marissa Lifshen Steinberger, manager of scholarship programs at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, said self-reporting was "a fantastic idea" that "eliminates or reduces the anxiety that students from lower-income families might face."

Scott Jaschik also looks at the decline in SAT II tests taken in recent years:

[Excerpts]: With only a few colleges requiring the tests, and others saying that they are recommended or will be considered (with various caveats), the numbers of high school students taking the subject tests is much smaller than those taking the SAT or ACT.

About 1.8 million high school students took the SAT in 2017, but only 219,000 took a subject test. A total of 542,000 tests were taken.

The Princeton Review has been using data released by the College Board to examine trends in how many people are taking which exams. The data show a steady decline in the number of subject test takers, from 312,000 in 2011 to this year's total of only a little more than two-thirds of that. The data also show that the STEM tests attract many more students, with the advanced math test attracting more than 140,000 people, and chemistry and biology both at 68,000. While history isn't far behind, at 58,000, languages lag. Spanish attracted more than 16,000, but German and Italian were under 1,000 students each.

Several counselors said, privately to avoid offending the College Board, that they considered the subject tests to be superior educationally to the SAT. The subject tests, they said, truly reward those who take advanced courses in high school and work hard in them. Students who just "test well" can't shine on the subject tests without real subject-matter knowledge, they said.

A professor at Trinity College has written an article in Forbes asking, "Why do U.S. News rankings punish test-optional colleges?":

[Excerpts]: Trinity College, where I teach, has found itself demoted from 38th to 44th place among small colleges. When a colleague of mine crunched the numbers this year, he found that Trinity had improved over last year in several areas, but that the drop to 44th boiled down to only two criteria: declines in “faculty resources” (i.e. salaries, mainly) and student “selectivity.” Our drop in “selectivity” was a direct consequence of our decision, two years ago, to go “test optional.” Unfortunately, if a college reports the scores of fewer than 75 percent of its incoming students, U.S. News discounts the subset of reported scores by 15 percent. This decision largely drove Trinity’s drop in “selectivity” from 43rd to 73rd place.

Here is an article with quotes about West Virginia's adoption of the SAT as its HS assessment: Officials speak about SAT named statewide assessment for juniors


After the test was chosen, Dr. Donna Hage, Harrison County assistant superintendent said they pulled all high school principals together to begin showing them resources such as Khan Academy, as well as sharing ideas for how they could explore and utilize these resources starting immediately.

“Included with the state’s purchase of the SAT is eight practice tests in Khan Academy. Additionally, there are thousands of test banks in Khan Academy that our teachers and students have access to immediately,” she said.

Tim Derico, Upshur County curriculum and assessment coordinator, said students will have some accountability with the SAT being the assessment.

“From my standpoint, it’s good for the students to be accountable for a test that means something to them now,” he said. “The schools were being judged on test scores where the students didn’t have any accountability before.”

An initiative (called Anchor Goal 1) to give the PSAT and SAT for free to all Philadelphia students has completed its third year for the PSAT and its second year for the SAT. This should have an impact on the number of students listed in the College Board's SAT testing report for Pennsylvania starting next year. Unlike most states or municipalities, the SAT is being administered in Philadelphia to seniors (October 11th was the SAT School Day).

Lastly, here is the patent for Reynold Johnson's test scoring machine (first filed in 1937):

Educational Device