Are ACT and College Board attempting to weaken “Truth in Testing” laws?

Yesterday, Bob Schaeffer of FairTest offered a stunning observation on the NACAC elist about lobbying efforts of ACT and The College Board to weaken “Truth in Testing” laws in New York and California.  For those of you who missed it, it is here:

Withholding the July ACT test in California is part of a new test-maker strategy to get that state and New York to roll back their landmark “Truth in Testing” laws, which force periodic disclosure of ACT and SAT questions and answers to enable students, educators, the media and even test-prep companies to better understand and prepare for admissions exams. FairTest and its predecessor organizations fought hard for these consumer protection laws going back to the late 1970s — I have testified multiple times in both Albany and Sacramento — and their provisions have been strongly supported by major civil rights, education reform and student groups. (Disclosure requirements exist only in these two mega-states but have been extended nationally by test-makers for administrative convenience)

Bills are now being circulated by ACT and College Board lobbyists in the New York legislature to weaken its Truth in Testing statute — I have seen draft language — and we expect similar proposals will surface in California this session.

Individuals and organizations in the college admissions arena who support test disclosure rules that have functioned well for more than three decades should let legislative leaders in these two states know their opinions now.  If hearings are scheduled, we will reach out to allies to join us in testifying.

Whether your institution uses standardized testing or not in the admissions process, this is troubling; we all recognize the extent to which college admissions testing is emphasized and used (many, including me, would say, “over-emphasized and over used”) in our daily lives, and many talk frequently about the cost this emphasis and focus extracts on the health of our students, not to mention the tremendous opportunity costs it inflicts on society.

But even if you love these tests, you might want to consider whether or not students should have some ability to understand them before they take such high stakes tests; this is especially true of students who cannot afford to take the exams multiple times.

I would suggest a few things:

  • That College Board and ACT issue public statements to respond to these charges fully.
  • That NACAC take an official stand and request the same, and, if the charges are true, to encourage them to reconsider their stance in the name of student advocacy
  • That every Admissions, EM, Financial Aid, High School Counselor, and IEC write letters to both David Coleman at College Board and Marten Roorda at ACT to express concern about their orientation toward testing transparency.  I’m talking real letters in your own words: Not form letters hastily copied and pasted.
  • If you live in California or New York, take the time to send a copy of the letter to your elected officials.

Thank you, and thanks to Bob for alerting us to this.

One thought on “Are ACT and College Board attempting to weaken “Truth in Testing” laws?

  1. Let me speak in College Board’s defense — not something I would often do. Remember how in the past year or two there have been a couple problematic SAT test dates. From my perspective as someone who has held a security clearance, it seems that their problem is that they didn’t have enough approved items for their tests, so they were forced into clumsy workarounds that didn’t go so well.
    There are really only so many sorts of questions one can ask, and validating each new question not only is expensive, it requires exposure of the question to some test takers. This drives up the cost of testing but also it increases the problems. And it makes the tests too easy and susceptible to preparation. Each old test that’s released lets the well drilled student see something very close to the test they’ll take. To compensate the test must become faster, because something has to create a spread of scores. It becomes a test of speed, accuracy and noticing certain tricks.
    Allowing the testing companies to hold certain questions back and reuse them would create a more viable environment in which they could do their work.


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