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National Officials Say It Is Time To End Test-Score 'Ratings Game'

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Seeking an end to the college "ratings game," the presidents of the American Council on Education and the College Board have asked that school officials and the media stop using admissions-test scores to rank colleges and universities.

In an open letter to educators across the country, Robert H. Atwell of the ace and Donald Stewart of the College Board say that test results are just one indicator of the quality of incoming students and do not "necessarily say anything useful about the quality of what goes on in a college or university."

"The use of score data in isolation, as a measure of quality with which to compare or rank-list colleges, is a clear misuse which should be curbed," the letter states.

The two organizations urged colleges to stop reporting median averages on standardized college-admissions tests, but to report instead a score range covering the middle 50 percent of admitted students.

This would emphasize the diversity of test scores at any one institution and show the overlap in scores among colleges and universities, the two presidents say in their letter.

When institutions report average test scores, they write, many prospective applicants mistakenly believe the averages are the minimum required for admission.

Institutions were urged to use the range-reporting format in response to the College Board's annual survey of colleges and universities, as well as other surveys and media inquiries.

Officials of the College Board have long taken exception to rankings of the best colleges and universities, such as the one done annually by U.S. News & World Report. Such lists often use median scores on the Scholastic Aptititude Test and the American College Test as one indicator of the quality of an institution.

Such ratings "do not serve the public well," the letter says. "The tests are meant to assess individual achievement and ability, not to compare the institutions students attend, or the schools, school districts, and states they hail from."

The two presidents said at a press conference this month that they plan to start a dialogue with media representatives to convey the message that there is "no single model of excellence in American higher education, much less a single indicator of quality."

Their letter also asks colleges and universities to explain how their published test scores are derived. Some institutions figure test medians or ranges based on the scores of students admitted, while others figure it based on those who accept admission.

The College Board is an association of colleges and universities that administers the sat The ace is a Washington-based higher-education association.

The open letter is the culmination of a year-long effort by the two organizations to determine how standardized admissions tests should be used.--mw

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