Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Stanford rejects new SAT Score Choice program

Score Choice, a new College Board program that will allow applicants to select the SAT scores they send to colleges, isn’t flying with the Stanford Office of Undergraduate Admission. The University has announced that it will not participate in the program and will continue to consider all of an applicant’s SAT scores.

Stanford is not the only school rejecting Score Choice. Though schools including Harvard and the University of Chicago have publicly accepted the policy, Stanford is joined by USC, Penn, Cornell and Pomona in continuing to require all SAT scores from their applicants.

Director of Admission Shawn Abbott told The Daily that Stanford will not accept Score Choice because it encourages students to “overdo” the SAT.

“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,” Abbott said.

The College Board, however, claims that the program will relieve the pressure of taking standardized tests.

Score Choice is “designed to reduce student stress and improve the test day experience,” according to the College Board website. “[Score Choice] will allow students to put their best foot forward on test day by giving them more flexibility and control over their scores.”

However, Abbott insisted that taking the SAT too often increases pressure on students.

“I wouldn’t agree with the notion that Score Choice relieves pressure or stress,” he said. “I would argue instead that such programs only encourage students to take more tests to improve their scores at all costs.”

But some students feel differently. Adrian Ferrari, a junior at local Catholic high school Sacred Heart Prep, will be applying to colleges next year, including Stanford, and feels that Score Choice would relieve some of his stress.

“With all of the pressure of applying to college, the ability to send in my best score would be a huge relief,” he said. “Certainly not enough of a relief to feel at-ease about the college application process in general, but at this point, I’ll take anything.”

Susan Dean, dean of college counseling at Castilleja School, the prestigious Palo Alto all-girls private high school, argued that the program will not only increase stress, but will actually give wealthier students further advantage over lower-income students.

“Allowing Score Choice will, in the end, only ratchet up the frenzy over test scores, as those students in a financial position to take the test numerous times, and to undertake expensive and time-consuming test prep courses, will do so in an attempt to achieve as high a score as possible,” Dean said.

Abbott, like Dean, criticized Score Choice for exacerbating socio-economic discrepancies in the application process.

“[Score Choice] is also a disadvantage to low-income students who may not have resources to test more than once or twice,” he said.

But Alice Kleeman, a college counselor at Menlo-Atherton High School, a local public school, did not see as much of a socio-economic problem with the program at her school, citing fee waivers and equal counseling access as equalizers.

“A small minority of students game the system,” she said. “I don’t think at my high school right here that we’re going to see a big difference between students with means and those without.”

In addition to the possible socio-economic concerns, critics have alleged that the College Board is implementing the policy to keep up with the ACT, which already has a similar score choice policy.

“My hunch is that the College Board is losing their market share of test-takers, with increasing competition from the ACT, which offers a program that is similar to Score Choice,” Abbott said. “Re-introducing Score Choice enables the College Board to offer students the same options they have with the ACT.”

Dean heard so herself at the College Board Western Regional Forum last February.

“I heard a College Board representative admit that the move to Score Choice was driven in some measure by the need to increase revenue,” Dean reported, “and they were losing market share to the ACT, which does allow score choice.”

Stanford also does not accept the ACT score choice program.

As to the implications of the policy, no one seems quite sure. Both Dean and Kleeman will be advising their students to submit all scores to all of their schools. However, Abbott is not sure whether Stanford’s approach to Score Choice will affect the number of applicants next year.

“Hard to predict,” he said. “However, we are hopeful that candidates will understand that a completely transparent process is the best way to approach applying to college, and that, in our evaluation, absolutely all information is considered in rendering a judgment.”

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