Schools Scramble to Deal with SAT Scoring Snafu

Thousands of college students received lower Scholastic Aptitude Test scores than they actually earned. The College Board, the entity that oversees the SATs, has admitted that scanning errors of tests given in October led to incorrect scores. Madeleine Brand talks to Bruce Poch, dean of admissions at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., about how colleges are dealing with the errors and admissions of new students in the fall.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand.

More SAT scores are wrong. Earlier, the College Board announced some 4,000 were scored too low because of a technical problem. Now it's adding another 400, bringing to 4400 the number of students who received scores lower than they should have. Colleges have already used the test to choose next fall's freshman class.

Bruce Poch is dean of admissions at Pamona College here in Southern California, and he joins me now.

Welcome to the program.

Mr. BRUCE POCH (Dean of Admissions, Pamona College): Thank you very much.

BRAND: Well, what was your reaction when you heard that even more tests were mis-scored?

Mr. POCH: Well, at this point the frustration is that the news is coming out drip by drip by drip. And we are really right on deadline for concluding our process. So it's rather late in the game to be getting more bad news.

BRAND: Right. This is the third time that there's been a statement by the College Board on this?

Mr. POCH: That's correct.

BRAND: And you are in the final process of deciding who's going to enter in the fall. And have you had to go back and look at the testing to make sure it was okay? And have you found any errors?

Mr. POCH: We did with the earlier group. In fact, the first group we had half a dozen students, which is a small number, fortunately, for us. We did go back and, in fact, just start with a clean slate on a couple of the students whose scores changed quite a bit, and made sure there was a fresh reading. I think some of my counterparts at other institutions with literally hundreds of scoring errors are probably a bit more frustrated in having to deal with this at the last minute.

BRAND: And with those students, did you then decide to admit them?

Mr. POCH: Oh, they were in fact very few, little tinkerings around the edges. So there were no changes ultimately in the decisions. For the student who had the biggest change, she'd gone ahead and taken another set of tests and already had a higher set of scores.

BRAND: Well, I'm wondering also, some of these scores were scored too highly, and those scores were not thrown out by the College Board. And I'm wondering is it possible that those students got places they didn't deserve, edging out students who may have gotten those spots?

Mr. POCH: Well, that's actually my big bone of contention right now with the College Board. I think that I understand, with the public relations nightmare that that would create at this very late date to release those names to colleges. But the reality is that there are students whose names we don't know who may have been displaced from scholarships, from admissions offers. It's quite possible that there are even students who have earned, inappropriately, NCAA eligibility. And that's where the unfairness really continues to ring.

BRAND: And is there anything that can be done about that?

Mr. POCH: What could be done is the College Board would be forthcoming. They say that they now know who those students are. And they have asserted that the score range of the difference, false high scores, was fairly small. But I think that nothing short of just putting all of the cards on the table is going to leave us without our skepticism.

BRAND: Well, the SAT itself has not been uncontroversial. Many peoples have criticized it, just for its general fairness, that it should be used at all. So does this raise questions for you, with the larger picture with the SAT?

Mr. POCH: Well, I have to say not yet. I served on the SAT Advisory Committee a number of years ago. I know how the test is constructed. And I've got confidence in the overall design and substance of the test. What is at issue right now isn't so much the test, I think, as it is the way it is managed in its scoring, and the deliver of information to us and the quality control side of things.

BRAND: Bruce Poch is dean of admissions at Pamona College here in Southern California.

Thank you for joining us.

Mr. POCH: Thank you so much.

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