— The Test Prince (@akilbello) March 10, 2016
All cited people in articles regardless of their degrees or alma mater should be considered with a grain of salt, especially in admission testing. There is no certification or vetting in the test prep industry so all experts are self-declared experts. A quoted “expert” with a PhD in applied mathematics might seem like a credible source for SAT advice but if he doesn’t even know how it is scored is he really an “expert?” The owner of a test prep company that works with low income students solely will likely have a different perspective than the manager of a tutoring business that works with elite private school kids. Unless you know a bit of the background and experience of the cited “expert” take their advice cautiously because it might not apply to you.
Groups statistics and anecdotes
News stories seem to focus on providing either large group statistics or personal anecdotes. You read about average student debt topping $37k or “What $200,000 in student loan dept looks like” but it’s much more rare to see articles that dis-aggregate the numbers like this and this. Just reading those former articles might freak out a student or parent if they have read something with the nuance of the latter articles.
What’s a reporter to do after quoting a fin. services co on education? why ask the parent of 6 year old about a college entrance test natch — The Test Prince (@akilbello) August 5, 2016
Focus on elitism
Most articles about college focus on “highly selective” colleges (which I define as those that admit fewer than 25% of the applicants). This is understandable yet problematic and misleading. These colleges (Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, etc) represent about 63 of the 3800 or so colleges (about 1.5%) in the United States. The advice for applying to these super-picky colleges will by nature be very different than the advice for all other colleges. Any report that uses these colleges to generalize about the college process or all colleges is wrong, flawed, and not worth reading.
— The Test Prince (@akilbello) September 8, 2016
Articles that do not provide secondary sources or analyses for their opinions are suspect. If someone claims that ACT is harder there should be some object measure that is linked to or provided to support that assertion. Typically, reports on testing provide only the perspective of either one test prep company (motivated to increase business) or the testing writer themselves (motivated to spin a particular narrative about their test). The test writing agencies are reliable for information on the logistics of the tests but few of them provide good information on usage or preparation. Test prep companies can provide a different perspective that is more student focused but there is far too often a selfish bent to their advice.
|Reporters||Bloggers||Test Prep Experts|
|Eric Hoover (The Chronicle of Higher Ed)||Willard Dix (Forbs, College Counseling Culture Blog)||James Murphy|
|Catherine Gewertz (Education Week)||Jon Boeckenstedt (Higher Ed Data Stories)||Adam Ingersoll|
|Liz Willen (The Hechinger Report)||Dan Edmonds|
|Melinda Anderson (The Atlantic)|
|Nick Anderson (WaPo)|
|Frank Bruni (The NY Times)|
If you think I’m missing anyone from my list let me know in the comments. And if you’re a fan of angry rants, here is my Storify of my HateReads.