Are Changes Coming to College Admissions?


We know it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s been less than 6 months since the Justice Department announced the indictments resulting from Operation Varsity Blues, so it’s no surprise that few universities have announced any substantial policy changes in their admissions procedures. If most big institutions move slowly, universities look at them and wonder, “What’s the big rush there?”  There are still committees to be convened in order to create sub-committees that can issue memos that can be circulated in order to be approved as official reports by committees who can then move items forward for approval by the faculty and/or Board of Trustees. In other words, don’t expect big changes in how colleges admit students anytime soon.

The truth is that the majority of bachelor’s granting institutions admit more applicants than they reject, so no one is going to be bribing or cheating their way in.  Those schools do not need to make admissions fairer (paying for college is a whole other issue, but that’s for another day). For the vast majority of American high school graduates finding a good college to admit them is as easy as finding a good restaurant in NYC. There are fewer than three hundred colleges that reject more students than they admit, but, yes, many of them could and should change their admissions processes in order to make them fairer. Here’s how.

Continue reading Are Changes Coming to College Admissions?


The Name Bracket

Screenshot_20190421-145857_Twittertwitter chief wokeness officer
Since the current crisis has cancelled a lot of the games we play, I’ve created a bracket that will distract us for a few minutes from the looming apocalypse.

On twitter my various names typically have a music and education or music and blackness theme. Now I need you guys to figure out which is the best of the names I’ve used.

This contest will run until 3/31 with each round lasting 3 days. Make sure you cast your votes!


There are 32 names in the tournament so the first round has 16 matchups (scroll!).




Temperature is to Testing as ….

Recently Marten Roorda, CEO of ACT reminded us that throwing away the thermometer won’t get rid of a fever and he’s 100% right. Of course, no doctor in the world thinks that tossing the thermometer will cure an identified ailment. Mr. Roorda’s analogy in defense of the ACT (and attacking the test optional movement) was really subtle and I think many will miss all the ways in which the analogy works. Since I’m a fan of a good analogy (except when they are put on a test) I’m going to help make sure everyone understands why this is an amazing analogy.

Blaming tests for differences in educational quality and access doesn’t eliminate or reduce these inequities any more than throwing away the thermometer gets rid of a fever. – Marten Roorda, ACT CEO

First, temperature (Mr. Roorda must have meant that instead of fever) is one of the standard vital signs used to monitor a patient’s well-being but doctors know that many misconceptions surround fever and that the accuracy of many thermometers is in question. One of the reason that thermometers are unreliable is that they are used by many people who aren’t doctors, I’d even bet that most thermometer users aren’t doctors at all and that means thermometers are often being used by untrained novices incorrectly and inaccurately. Just like the ACT!

Types of Thermometers


Admission tests are constantly overused and misused by those to don’t understand them, didn’t read the directions (technical manual or score use guidelines) and misinterpret the numbers that are given.


Standardized test : Thermometer ::

(A) three pointer : basketball

(B) intelligence : sickness

(C) college readiness : fever

(D) FYGA : rectal temperature

(E) aptitude : health

*Answer to the question is at the end of the post.

Second, thermometers are used to make broad judgements of “health.” Doctors likely only use thermometers to determine the following:

  1. dead
  2. below normal
  3. normal
  4. above normal
  5. dead.

If the ACT or SAT were to be scored the same way it would be a much more accurate use of tests. Mr. Roorda’s analogy points out to us that thermometers are not use to ordinally rank patients. No doctor has ever looked at a .5° difference in temperature and concluded that one patient is healthier the other or that one is more deserving of treatment the other. We should totally use ACT scores that way. I’ve even created a scale that ACT could use to replace their scores that would foster this more responsible use:

Reducing the range of scores would encourage everyone to use the scores the  way doctors use thermometers: to identify the need for further better information.

Third, different types of thermometers are used for different purposes (hell, we could extend the thermometer use cases beyond health to cooking, homes, and vehicles but less not complicate things). This analogy probably means that testing is like a “thermometer” (with the quotes indicating the lack of precision in the word thermometer).  I’m sure Mr. Roorda noticed that using a forehead thermometer doesn’t measure the core body temperature, which is the temp that most doctors are seeking in order to assess illness. The ACT is also lacking in precision when it’s called a test of ability, knowledge, readiness, etc. So again this analogy is spot on!

I wish Mr. Roorda had clarified if he thinks the ACT is a rectal or a disposable plastic strip thermometer. Is the ACT the mercury thermometer that after decades of use the industry has finally started to force it to be phased out? These great analogy should force us to ask ourselves “are some colleges using a rectal thermometer to measure oral temperature?”

*I have no clue what the answer to that analogy is. I’m not really sure what in Marten’s analogy was the test and what was the thermometer. If you figure it out let me know.

Further reading and resources :


Is the SHSAT a Valid Test?

Last week, a short editorial I wrote, Two key questions about how New York City admits students into its elite public schools, appeared in the Washington  Post. Since there are limits on how much can be said in a paper I figured I say the rest of what I have to say here. So here we go…

Continue reading Is the SHSAT a Valid Test?


Why Aren’t More Colleges Test Optional?

Since the inception of the SAT in 1926, the admission world has debated (19762001200820152018, 2019) the impact of and validity of the SAT (and later the ACT, CLT, CCTST, etc) on the pool of applicants and enrolled students at a Captureuniversity. Recently, more and more colleges have been asking themselves should they diminish the role of testing in their admission process and declare a test optional admissions policy. This debate has heated up recently with the release of Measuring Success: Testing, Grades, and the Future of College Admissions and the announcement of the University of Chicago’s test optional policy causing many institutions to look inward at their use of test scores. Continue reading Why Aren’t More Colleges Test Optional?


Cheating Twice as Hard To Get Half as Much: Lessons from the T. M. Landry

Related imageWhen the NY Times published its scathing exposé of T. M. Landry College Preparatory  (“Louisiana School Made Headlines for Sending Black Kids to Elite Colleges. Here’s The Reality”) it caused an uproar in the educational community as educators, admissions professionals, and parents were shocked to learn that behind the inspirational videos was a school in trouble. Many were stunned as revelations painted a picture of a school engaging in abusive discipline practices more reminiscent of the 1940s than the 2000s. These practices alone give adequate reason for outrage and when compounded by the evidence of significant educational abuses and fraud makes this an important story for everyone in the educational community.

Continue reading Cheating Twice as Hard To Get Half as Much: Lessons from the T. M. Landry


Access Organizations: Providing Social Capital

9D2EE6E1-0EC1-4EF6-864E-79A599F21463As anyone who works with low income, first generation or underrepresented students could tell you, the vast majority of these students lack not only the funds to compete with the 1% but also the “social capital” that greases the wheels of higher education access. Networks of chatty parents sharing new discoveries about demonstrated interest, hooks, gap years, PPY, ED/EDII/EA/EAII/REA, supplemental essays, recommended (not really) tests, super-scoring, super-duper-scoring, test optional/flexible, and a host of other insider secrets help the most informed more easily navigate an increasingly complex system.

Continue reading Access Organizations: Providing Social Capital


GRE: The One Test To Rule All Grad Schools

Since the 1980s, Educational Testing Service (ETS), which dominated educational admission testing from 1940 – 1980, has been hemorrhaging product lines. In its heyday (SAT word) ETS was the Sauron to US education’s Middle Earth, providing admissions tests for the vast majority of professional certification programs and higher ed admissions.  Their services ranged from teacher certification exams to the SAT, GRE, GMAT, MCAT, and LSAT. In the last decade or so, ETS business strategy has changed and the organization has begun to aggressively market their most popular remaining assessment product, the Graduate Record Exam (commonly known by its initialism – GRE), as “the One Test to Assess Them All.” This strategic market grab, while an interesting business strategy, raises significant questions about all admission tests. Specifically, the expansion of the GRE into fields beyond its design should force responsible test users to reevaluate long-held assumptions about what information is being gained by requiring the GRE (and all its brethren) and at what cost.

Continue reading GRE: The One Test To Rule All Grad Schools


SHSAT 2017 – A Deeper Dive

After announcing changes in September 2016 and then teasing us with 10 sample questions and an FAQ in January 2017, the DOE finally released two full sample tests in May of 2017.  The sample tests were included in the 2017 – 2018 Specialized High School Handbook and I spent the month of June perusing, categorizing, and quantifying the questions contained therein.  With that work done (well it was finished in June but I didn’t get motivated to blog until this morning .. thanks Stacey H), I’m here to share all that I know about the changes to the SHSAT for 2017.

Continue reading SHSAT 2017 – A Deeper Dive