College & Workforce Readiness

Misreporting of SAT Data Adds to Debate Over College Rankings

By Caralee J. Adams — February 07, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In the college search, students gravitate towards lists. They love the shorthand comparison of schools provided by rankings such as U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges.

But recent news that Claremont McKenna College submitted inflated SAT scores casts a shadow over the rankings. The vice president and dean of admissions at the 1,200-student school in Claremont, California, admitted misrepresenting data from 2005 to 2011. Although the scores were exaggerated only slightly, small differences can influence the rankings.

Claremont McKenna ranked ninth among national liberal arts colleges in the latest U.S. News list.

The SAT scores have a weight of 7.5 percent in the formula for ranking colleges, according to Bob Morris, of U.S. News. The school also misreported the student-testing scores to the U.S. Department of Education; its regional accrediting body, Western Association of Schools and Colleges; and other publishers. Claremont McKenna has promised “in the near future” it will supply the magazine with the correct average SAT scores so it can determine the impact the misreporting had on the ranking of the school, Morris, who oversees the rankings for U.S. News, wrote on its website.

The episode demonstrates the lengths to which colleges will go to improve their position and adds fuel to the criticism of the validity of the rankings.

Inside Higher Education today ran an opinion piece by the president of Colby College, in Maine, calling the incident a predictable scandal. “We should have seen this coming,” writes William Adams. Colleges use a variety of methods to game the system that are on the margins of acceptable practices, he says. The system encourages deceit and has a corrupting influence on higher education, according to Adams.

Adams suggests it’s time for colleges to take collective action and not participate in the ranking system, but admits a boycott is unlikely.

The National Association of College Admission Counseling, a nonprofit membership group of admissions counseling professional based in Arlington, Va., has cautioned students about placing too much importance on the U.S. News rankings. In a report last fall, NACAC said the rankings create confusing impressions about college quality.

A committee the group convened to discuss the U.S. News rankings recommended that it remove the “class rank” and “standardized testing” metrics from the rankings formula and instead include factors that measure student satisfaction and engagement. It also suggested that less weight be given to the survey of other administrators about a school’s reputation. The group called for more educational information to be given to members about the rankings and that NACAC work with education publishers to encourage development of do-it-yourself lists for consumers so the selection process will be driven by personal fit over generic rankings.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Opinion Can College-Going Be Less Risky Without Being 'Free'?
Rick Hess speaks with Peter Samuelson, president of Ardeo Education Solutions, about Ardeo's approach to make paying for college less risky.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion What Will It Take to Get High School Students Back on Track?
Three proven strategies can support high school graduation and postsecondary success—during and after the pandemic.
Robert Balfanz
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of students making choices based on guidance.
Viktoria Kurpas/iStock
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion An Economist Explains How to Make College Pay
Rick Hess speaks with Beth Akers about practical advice regarding how to choose a college, what to study, and how to pay for it.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says College Enrollment Dip Hits Students of Color the Hardest
The pandemic led to a precipitous decline in enrollment for two-year schools, while four-year colleges and universities held steady.
3 min read
Conceptual image of blocks moving forward, and one moving backward.
Marchmeena29/iStock/Getty