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The College Board has raised hackles again with a policy change. Called Score Choice, this program gives students the option to control which test scores get sent to schools. (This really isn't a new policy; it's a return to an earlier policy circa 1993-2002 when students could choose to send schools their best scores over several test sittings.)

Both sides of the standardized testing debate weigh in on this return to an earlier policy. Some say this element of control lowers student anxiety; the pro-testers want to see all the scores.

When I applied to college 25 years ago, the schools told me outright that they would use my best score from each piece of the test(s) to build the best composite; Bruce Poch, vice president and dean of admissions at Pomona College tells the New York Times ("SAT Changes Policy, Opening Rift With Colleges") that this is the current policy at Pomona.

For large institutions standardized tests are important measures in their mass situations. Small schools or schools with large admission staffs have the time and resources to evaluate students closely and individually.

My solution- why don't schools communicate up-front- directly and clearly- how their admission office uses the SAT and ACT? It seems that much anxiety and debate could be diffused with more transparency. A lot of wheel spinning and misplaced energy seems to grow out of the fact that families and students don't understand the meaning of each test at each school.

Tell students and families how the standardized test scores factor into admission decisions each school. Being informed- not given an illusory choice- gives families the ability to make proper judgments
Late week we wrote a piece about the growing number of colleges that no longer use the SAT as part of their admission evaluation. I had no idea that the number of non-SAT colleges and universities had grown to 800 or so. We noted that the choice to remove standardized testing from the college admission equation tends to be the province of private liberal art colleges that have admission staffs with the time and funding necessary to read about, interview and evaluate each candidate uniquely.

Major state universities I surmised, require a standard measurement tool of some sort even if imperfect.

The New York Times published an article ("Scarsdale Adjusts to Life Without Advanced Placement Courses") this past Saturday about the Scarsdale public schools abandonment of the prescribed Advanced Placement (A.P.) curriculum in favor of the district's own Advanced Topics or AT curriculum. The AT approach is a broader, more integrated, presentation of material- an integrated humanities approach.

The pro-A.P. and anti-A.P. sides have their voices. While A.P. advocates highlight the test's effective measurement and accepted status, A.P. opponents argue for a greater curriculum diversity and flexibility.

While it's nice to be able to move beyond the defined A.P. curriculum, John Klemme, Scarsdale's principal told the NY Times:

"We have the luxury of being able to move beyond the A.P. If people called it a gold curriculum in the past, I refer to this version as the platinum curriculum."
Opting out of the process is still a function of privilege. The A.P. program is by no means perfect.  But, a consistent examination, requiring certain preparations, provides one way to evaluate students north to south and east to west.
The Boston Globe ran short exposition article looking at the current state of the 'drop the SAT' movement. All of the standard anti-SAT arguments appear- inaccurate predictor of college success, tilted in favor the wealthy (cultural exposure and test prep), use the SAT but assign less value to it in the admission process, no SAT requirement broadens the applicant pool.

Appropriate use of the SAT arguments run in counterbalance- the test accurately predicts college success, the test is only one factor in the admission process; the SAT is the only national measurement we have.

The ongoing 'yes or no' saga surrounding the SAT will never resolve itself given the plurality in college admission procedures. Small liberal arts colleges with a high ratio of staff to applications- and plenty of money for the admission office- can afford the time and effort necessary to evaluate a student's complex picture of achievement and potential. Major state universities don't have the luxury of time, money, and staff. For big schools, the SAT is an imperfect, albeit consistent, yardstick

The problem boils down to this. Without a defined curriculum- dare I say, a national curriculum- colleges with large applicant pools and smaller admission staffs (public universities) need a common yardstick. The common yardstick is blunt and unequal in its application. In many large public university settings, neither the time or money is available for complex admission evaluation.

It all comes down to household income. Household income is also the single strongest correlation to high SAT scores. If you come from a wealthy family, you're more likely to be interested in and qualify for a small liberal arts college. There's something very insular, circular, and unhealthy about this self-reinforcing pattern.

How do you get into this world and cycle if you don't have a lot of money?

More pressing than whether or not to use the SAT in the college admission process should be a mission to design our schools so that household income becomes a weak correlation to SAT scores and smaller factor in academic achievement-- a holy grail.

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