By Kathryn Juric, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Kathryn Juric is vice president of the College Board’s SAT Program. She leads global program strategy for the SAT, which is administered annually to nearly 3 million students worldwide.
The College Board created the SAT to democratize access to higher education by providing an objective measure for evaluating a student’s college readiness. This function has endured for more than 80 years and for those who doubt its value, here are 10 reasons why the SAT continues to be an integral part of the college admission process:
1. The SAT has a proven track record as a fair and valid predictor of first-year college success for all students, regardless of gender, race, or socio-economic status. The most recent validity study utilizing data from more than 150,000 students at more than 100 colleges and universities demonstrates that the combined use of SAT and high school GPA is a better predictor of college success than HSGPA alone.
2. The SAT gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their college-preparedness despite inconsistent grading systems throughout the nation’s high schools. And SAT scores provide a national, standardized benchmark that neutralizes the risk of grade inflation.
3. The SAT tests students’ ability to apply what they have learned in high school and to problem-solve based on that knowledge – skills that are critical to success in college and the workforce. The College Board conducts regular curriculum surveys to ensure the content tested on the SAT reflects the content being taught in the nation’s high school classrooms.
4. Despite what some testing critics have said, colleges still depend on college entrance exams as part of the admission process. According to a 2010 survey published by the National Association of College Admission Counseling, admissions officers ranked college entrance exam scores as the third-most important factor in the admission process – behind only grades in college prep courses and the strength of the student’s high school curriculum.
5. The SAT actually shines a spotlight on the inequities in education by putting every student on equal footing. The notion that the differences in test scores among different groups of students is somehow the result of testing bias is an idea that is “universally rejected within mainstream psychology,” according to University of Minnesota researchers.
6. Unlike other standardized tests intended to measure a student’s college-readiness, the SAT requires a writing portion of the exam, an essential skill in today’s e-communications era.
7. While organizations that oppose standardized testing might suggest otherwise, nearly all four-year colleges require a college entrance exam, and some “test-optional” schools do, in fact, consider SAT scores in the admission process when students submit them. Data provided by colleges and universities to college-planning sites such as BigFuture.org show that many test-optional schools receive SAT scores from a majority of the students who ultimately matriculate at those institutions. For instance, of the students who were admitted to and enrolled at Bowdoin last year, more than 70% submitted SAT scores as part of the admission process.
8. Parents and students should keep in mind that colleges do not base admission decisions on test scores alone. The College Board has always advocated that the best use of the SAT is in combination with high school grades and other valid measures, as part of a holistic and comprehensive review of a student’s overall fit for a particular institution.
9. States and districts can use aggregate SAT scores in conjunction with other measures to evaluate the general direction of education in a particular district or state, develop curriculum, and determine staffing needs. The SAT is the only college readiness measure statistically linked to NAEP, the Nation’s Report Card.
10. As part of its commitment to access and equity in education, the College Board introduced the SAT Fee-Waiver Program more than 40 years ago to assist those students for whom test fees presented an obstacle in the college-going process. Today, more than 20% of SAT takers utilize fee waivers, including more than 350,000 students in the graduating class of 2011 alone. During the 2010-2011 academic year, the College Board provided more than $37 million in free SAT services.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Kathryn Juric.