NACAC joined several education organizations this week in calling for changes to the way college rankings are calculated by one of the nation’s largest publishers of such information.
The effort was organized by New America — a think tank based in Washington, DC — which published an open letter to the editors of US News & World Report asking them to end the practice of including the average SAT and ACT scores of incoming students in their Best Colleges calculations.
“Using average scores of incoming students to rank an institution has never made sense, but is even more preposterous during a deadly pandemic,” notes the letter. “…At the same time, a rise in test-blind and test-optional admissions policies has made it difficult to compare institutions using this metric.”
The letter also points to research showing that, even in the best of years, the use of standardized test scores in calculating college rankings is problematic. Data shows that test scores can’t reliably predict a student’s performance in college. And overall, experts have found that the metric says more about an institution’s admission practices than its quality of instruction.
“Standardized admissions tests benefit high-income and predominantly white students who can afford expensive tutoring—teaching them tricks to taking the tests—or to take the exams multiple times to improve their scores, while low-income students and students of color don’t have access to the same resources,” the letter notes. “As a result, using test scores in selective college admissions disadvantages these students. Any organization that wishes to advance racial and socioeconomic equity in education should understand this. By using the test scores in the rankings, US News is rewarding and helping perpetuate a gatekeeping tactic that is discriminatory.”
Mary Stegmeir is a freelance writer and editor. She formerly served as NACAC’s assistant director for editorial content and outreach.