SAT errors understated

Some scores should have been 200 points higher, officials say

March 09, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

A day after the College Board notified colleges that it had misreported the scores of 4,000 students who took the SAT exam in October, an official of the testing organization disclosed that some of the errors were far larger than initially suggested.

With college counselors and admissions officials scrambling to take a second look at student scores in the final weeks before they mail out acceptances and rejections, Chiara Coletti, the College Board's vice president for public affairs, said that 16 students out of the 495,000 who took the October exam had scores that should have been more than 200 points higher.

"There were no changes at all that were more than 400 points," Coletti said. But she did not say how many students received scores with that magnitude of error. The three-section test has a maximum score of 2400.

At the height of admissions season, colleges reported Tuesday being notified by the College Board that nearly 1 percent of the students who took the SAT reasoning test in October, or about 4,000, had received erroneous scores. On Tuesday, Coletti had characterized the largest errors as in the 80- to 100-point range.

College counselors and college admissions officers said yesterday that they were surprised by the announcement and its timing, which came months after the College Board had begun to investigate the problem and so close to the end of the admissions process.

"To have it come this late is really challenging," said Lee Stetson, dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania. "We've been through half the admitted class already, and now we have to stop everything and review those students who were affected."

The board said yesterday that it had finished notifying high schools and students about discrepancies. It said it would return the fees the affected students had paid to take the exam and to send the results to colleges and scholarship organizations.

A clearer picture emerged of who was affected. Coletti said the biggest concentration of errors was on the East and West Coasts, with the largest numbers of students in New York and New Jersey. Almost all of the mistakes understated the true scores students had earned.

She said 83 percent of the scoring errors were 10 to 40 points. The University of Pennsylvania, for instance, learned that scores for 103 of its 20,450 applicants were being raised, including 23 students who had applied to be admitted in its early decision program. Fourteen of those applicants had been denied.

Stetson said it appeared that most of the changes would not alter the admissions decisions, but that his department would review each of the applications again.

The College Board's scoring problems also spilled into sports. Eric Christianson, a spokesman for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, said the College Board had notified it that 59 students whose scores were being changed had requested that their scores be sent to the association.

Christianson said the association was trying to determine how many of them had actually registered with the NCAA clearinghouse, which handles eligibility rules for student athletes. He added that final certification of NCAA eligibility will not be completed until after graduation. A number of colleges said they were reviewing all of the applicants whose scores were being raised, but did not expect to change many decisions.

Some college counselors said that students they advised were very upset by the problems.

"Scores are absurdly important," said Ned Johnson, a consultant in the Washington area who works with students applying to college. He added, "One hundred points could easily make or break a kid."

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