Oct 7, 2009

The Commonwealth of Virginia vs. the College Board

As the College Board earnestly implores individual schools and school districts to discontinue the practice of publishing standardized test scores on student transcripts, the Commonwealth of Virginia is moving ahead with a plan requiring public school transcripts to include the highest test score earned “if available” on standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT. According to Joe Wharff, a school counseling connections specialist within the Virginia Department of Education, all secondary schools were expected to have the new regulation in place for final transcripts by the end of the 2008-09 school year. Although most school divisions are assumed to be in compliance, Wharff was unaware of the status of several local school district efforts to amend transcripts to include test results.

Long before the issue of SAT Score Choice™ surfaced, the Virginia Board of Education adopted amended regulations governing secondary school transcripts (8 VAC 20-16-10 et. seq.). These revisions were made “to strengthen the transcript regulations and to bring them into conformity with amended or new state and federal laws as well as the needs of higher education.” Little did the Board know when they passed these regulations in 2007 that requiring schools to post standardized test results would fly in the face of College Board recommendations in 2009. Under the terms of Score Choice, publishing scores and sending them to colleges and universities without student permission potentially violates student intent to suppress or keep confidential certain test results. In other words, schools conforming to the new requirement could face consequences arising from release of scores to colleges that students don’t want them to see.

As if this isn’t bad enough, the wording of the new transcript requirement appears to force schools not only to post standardized test results but also to select the “higher” of those earned by individual students. This means keeping up-to-date on repeated test-taking attempts as well as researching approved concordance tables to determine whether a student’s ACT or SAT is the higher of the scores earned. In larger Virginia high schools, this could become a full time job.

Officials in Fairfax County are working with the Department of Education to see how best to implement the new requirements. For now, it appears that standardized test results will be posted on an “attachment” to the transcript which may or may not be sent to colleges. Individual high schools are awaiting guidance from the county before taking specific action with regard to posting scores or amending transcripts to conform to any of the other new requirements passed by the Board of Education. In the meantime, the College Board is standing by its recommendation that high schools should discontinue the practice of posting scores on transcripts. For Score Choice and any number of other reasons, it’s a really bad idea. Who owns these scores anyway?

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