Most current and future college students assume the ubiquitous ACT and SAT tests that millions of students have taken over the years are developed and maintained by the government. However, a company that calls itself The College Board is the owner of the SAT and CLEP tests, and ACT Inc. owns and maintains the ACT test. These two tests have a duopoly on college admissions testing, so it’s important that we take a deeper look at what has been going on at these two companies lately.
ACT Inc. is set up as a “non-profit” business, but underneath the charitable business structure lies something not so noble. The government seems to be catching wind of what’s going on because according to this article in The Des Moines Register, the non-profit status of ACT Inc. is under investigation by The Attorney General. This is the same company that holds the fate of whether or not many students will be able to attend their school of choice, yet they are under investigation by the Attorney General and potentially the IRS.
The College Board owns the SAT as well as the College Level Examination Program (or CLEP), which grants college-level credit at over 2900 colleges and universities. Just like ACT Inc., they charge considerable fees to take the test, as well as anytime you or a school needs access to your test scores. You do not own your test scores – this is a common theme with both companies, since it makes it easy for them to collect residual dues from millions of students for eternity, or as long as they need access to their scores. They also own the AP Program in which high school students can earn college credit in high school by taking rigorous college level courses – for a fee. The fact that all of these fees leave economically disadvantaged students at an even bigger disadvantage seems to be lost on both companies.
Also, the College Board has been proven to grade the written portion of the test based on length only, rather than quality. Les Perelman, a director of undergraduate writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was able to accurately predict the score of an exam based solely on the length. “If you just looked at length and nothing else, you could be right in predicting the score over 90 percent of the time,” he says. (To prove his point, he even guessed the scores of sample essays just by gauging their length without reading them. He was 10 for 10.) Perelman was also dismayed to learn that the College Board, which administers the SAT, has explicitly said that on the grounds that it is testing writing, not historical, literary, or scientific knowledge, “that factual references in the essays needn’t be correct. If you misstate the date of the War of 1812, for example, the readers won’t mark you down.”
According to FairTest.org, this standardized testing is a $250 Billion per year industry. For non-profit companies, they sure seem to make a lot of profits, and they reward their executives accordingly rather than lowering testing fees to make it more accessible to economically disadvantaged students. Americans for Education Testing Reform point out that College Board is acting unethically by selling test preparation materials, directly lobbying legislators and government officials, and refusing to acknowledge test-taker rights. The fact that these companies are allowed to be the only game in town for admissions testing into institutions of higher education is a travesty, and needs to be challenged by administrators at the school themselves if we ever hope to have true reform in the testing industry.
If you found the previous article informative, you should check out more goodies in our college life section, or read some of these articles below:
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- Affording College
- The Student Loan Scam
- How Special Will Your College Experience Be?
- Indecisive About Your Future? Don’t Worry, It’s Just One Big Trip, Man
- College Essays
- How to Beat a Standardized Test
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- Life After College – Getting a Job
- College Degrees No Longer Worth Cost
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