College Releases Official Corrected SAT Data

Claremont McKenna College released the official SAT Corrected Figures from 2004 to 2011 to the Forum and other news organizations. The previous data, which were manipulated by a senior official at the college’s Office of Admission, reveal a clear inflation of the median and mean critical reading and math scores. The degree to which scores were doctored varied by year. SAT data obtained from the college’s “factbooks,” assembled yearly by the Office of Institutional Research, show the difference in reported and actual scores. In 2009, for example, the median critical reading score was 680 while the factbook shows a median of 700 for that year. The scores, which are calculated by ranges (e.g., 650-690 or 700-740), were exaggerated to bump up individual student scores to the next highest bracket.

The corrected data also shows evidence of effectively hiding students who scored lowest on the exam. Between 2004 and 2011, eight students had scored below 500 on verbal/critical reading, and only one was reported.

Ranked the ninth-best liberal arts college in the country by U.S. News and World Report, Claremont McKenna is among the most selective liberal arts institutions in the country. Though the changes to the data were slight, the corrected data may affect the college’s ranking.

Rob Franek, author of The Best 376 Colleges and Senior Vice President of Publishing at the Princeton Review, spoke with the Forum and doesn't expect the misreported SAT scores to affect CMC's rankings in the publication.

Rankings in the Princeton Review are based entirely on student reviews, said Franek, and they are not likely to change because of the newly corrected SAT scores. More likely, Franek believes this incident will force institutions of higher education to ask, "Why is there such a frenzy around testing?"

The conversation, says Franek, will be less about the story surrounding Claremont McKenna and more about "the story around the increased attention to the SAT and ACT, how important it is to the admissions process, and how important it is to report those numbers honestly. I think that's where the discussion is going to go."

On NPR’s All Things Considered, Robert Morse, director of data research for U.S. News and World Report, indicated that the dip in scores is likely to have only a small effect on the ranking. “It’s certainly not going to drop the school to twentieth place,” said Morse, “but I guess there’s some chance that it could drop out of the top ten.”

President Pamela Gann first announced the discovery of falsely reported data on Monday morning in an email message. Richard C. Vos, former Vice President & Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, has since resigned. Georgette DeVeres, a longtime employee of the college and member of President Gann’s senior staff, was appointed interim head of admissions yesterday afternoon.

The revelation of the fudged SAT scores has triggered dialogue amongst Claremont McKenna students. Some believe the error at the Office of Admissions is symptomatic of an obsession with college rankings, and others are calling for more transparency in the administration’s handling of the incident. Still others assert that the recent news is in no way a reflection on the college culture, students, or faculty.

The Forum has been tracking student reactions and will continue to do so as the story progresses.