Key Takeaways from the College Board Forum 2018

Every year, the College Board hosts an international forum, where educators attend sessions, participate in workshops, and network with colleagues in the field of college admissions testing. College Board officials and academics present research findings and lead seminars – it’s a great way for us to stay up-to-date on the latest research and trends in the field. This past year, the Forum took place in Washington, DC from October 22nd to October 24th. Here are some of my key takeaways:

Forum Plenary: Past, Present, and the Pursuit of Promise

The President of the College Board, David Coleman, and the Chancellor of the University of Texas System, James Milliken, led a discussion about the future of education. Their focus was equity and equal opportunity in education for all students and how that creates generational changes. Michael Hinojosa, the Superintendent of Schools for the Dallas Independent School District, discussed how his generation was the first in his family to attend college and the positive generational effects that attending college continues to have for his extended family. Mr. Coleman introduced Sylvia Mendez of ‘Mendez v. Westminster’ and presented her with the College Board Medal of Distinction. Mendez v. Westminster was a 1947 Supreme Court case that served as a prelude to Brown v. Board of Education and ended the segregation of children of Mexican descent in California’s Orange County School System. Mendez spoke about her childhood experiences being excluded from the public school in her neighborhood and sent to a school across town.

Forum Sessions

“How the SAT serves Campus Needs Beyond Admissions”

Emily Shaw (Senior Director of Validity Research of the College Board), Scott Verzyl (Dean of Undergraduate Admissions,University of South Carolina), and Rachel Hernandez (Senior Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, University of Texas, Austin) spoke about the ways they use SAT data to predict post-secondary success, increase retention and graduation rates, and provide educational support throughout college.

Shaw’s focus was predicting post secondary success via an SAT/GPA index that predicted incoming students’ GPA by looking at their SAT scores . Typically, there is a linear relationship between student GPA and their test scores, which basically means that students with higher test scores typically have higher GPAs. Going deeper into the data, Shaw examined the role that residuals play in college retention rates. A residual is the difference between a predicted value and an observed value. In the context of SAT/GPA analysis, this would come from a student whose GPA was either higher or lower than expected, based on their SAT scores. When an audience member asked how Shaw explained lower retention rates, she responded that negative residuals tend to indicate a poor work ethic and positive residuals indicate a tendency to ‘transfer up’. Shaw stated she plans a follow up study to validate that conclusion. She found that large residual values, either positive or negative, indicate potential retention problems. She also discussed the multiple uses of ACES (Admitted Class Evaluation Service) to help improve college outcomes. The College Board offers this service for free to smaller colleges that can’t afford it.

Verzyl spoke about his research on retention rates and how the University of South Carolina has historically used an admissions index to help recognize potential academic shortcomings. This index ranks students on a variety of factors, from SAT scores and incoming GPA to personality traits, in order to detect which students may be in danger of dropping out. USC also uses the SAT in their search process, their merit aid decisions, and to predict retention and flag for interventions.

Hernandez addressed the impact of Texas state laws governing admissions. Next year, the top 6% of HS graduates in Texas will automatically be admitted to some public universities in Texas, down from 7% last year. UT Austin uses SAT scores to determine whether a student is in need of support in a particular area and to help structure classes to support students. They also use the number of AP classes students have taken, in context with number of AP classes offered at that school, to evaluate student performance and help with admissions decisions.

“More Than Filling in Circles: Test Score Roles Beyond College Selection”

Charlie Carapello (Assistant Dean of Admissions, University of Georgia), Erica Clark( Counselor, Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta), Rachel McCoy (Director, State and District Partnerships, College Board Southern Region) and Joe Montgomery Associate Director, College Board Southern Region) discussed possible roles for test scores beyond college admissions.

Carapello began the discussion by stating that exam scores are only one of many variables in admissions. UGA also uses the Admitted Class Evaluation Service (ACES) to help determine what high school factors best predict college success. UGA also uses ACES in college counseling to help pick students pick their major.

Clark described how the 8th or 9th grade PSAT is used at Booker T. Washington High School as a baseline to inform school staff of which incoming freshman require support or remedial classes.The school also uses the 10th grade PSAT and the PSAT/NMSQT to monitor progress and provide additional support as needed. The school reports that SAT scores have improved from approximately 800 to approximately 920 using Khan Academy’s self-prep tools.

McCoy discussed the College Board Readiness and Success System. In partnership with Khan Academy, College Board provides baseline assessments, followed by personalized practice and support, covering the SAT suite of assessments.

Montgomery then fielded questions from the audience. I asked him why the current SAT – which debuted in 2016 – de-emphasized geometry in favor of more advanced algebra. He responded that their research and collaboration with colleges indicated that most college majors don’t require advanced geometry, while advanced algebra is much more helpful and a better predictor of college success.


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  • Spudman

    That conference was actually in Dallas —