I admire the work done by Bob Schaeffer and FairTest as I think we need perspective on the testing frenzy that has gripped the country. He’s targeting National Merit testing and scoring now.
(By the way about testing, a bill is pending that would eliminate mandatory CRCTs in first grade here in Georgia. More on that later.)
I found this note from FairTest interesting because one of my kids ran into this issue. My oldest attended boarding school out of state on a scholarship and would have qualified for the National Merit pool in the state where the school was located but missed it by a few points because boarding schools as a group had a higher cutoff.
Until then, I had not been aware that the qualifying score varied state by state. So, for example, a 214 qualifies you for National Merit in Georgia, but you need a 221 in Massachusetts and Maryland. You only need a 201 in Wyoming and a 202 in Nevada and North Dakota.
Schaeffer is upset because the National Merit Scholarship Corporation apparently doesn’t want the cutoffs listed by state and went after a college counselor who posted them. I am not sure why National Merit objects as you can find the information with an online search. I have looked it several times in the past few years just to see where Georgia stood – we are in the middle to high range in terms of where our kids have to score.
I am with FairTest in that transparency ought to be the rule in all testing, even when the results are not pretty. (That is why Georgia DOE ought to release its math EOCT and PSAT scores.)
So, Schaeffer has posted the state cutoff scores on Fairtest. Here is the note that he sent:
NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIP CORP. BULLIES SCHOOL COUNSELOR
TO REMOVE STATE-BY-STATE QUALIFYING TEST SCORES FROM WEB;
FAIRTEST RE-POST’S “CENSORED” DATA TO SHOW AWARD’S BIASES.
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), which runs the country’s most prestigious tuition aid competition, is trying to block internet posting of state-by-state test score requirements for its awards. Nancy Griesemer, an independent college counselor in Northern Virginia who included the information on her website, recently received a letter from NMSC’s legal firm stating, “we strongly request you remove compilations of NMSC data.” The letter was titled “re: Unauthorized Use of National Merit Scholarship Materials.” In response, Ms. Griesemer took down the information.
“National Merit’s bullying tactics are a ham-handed attempt to hide its biased process,” said Robert Schaeffer, Public Education Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). ”That’s why we are posting state-by-state cut-off scores for the high school class of 2010.”
He continued, “NMSC uses state quotas to assure geographic fairness. As a result, minimum test score requirements for scholarship eligibility differ widely across the country.” For the class of 2010, state scholarship eligibility minimums range from 221 to 201 on the qualifying exam’s 60- 240 point scale.
“At the same time, however, NMSC has made no effort to address the huge income, racial and gender disparities in its awards,” Schaeffer charged. “The problems stem from NMSC’s misuse of minimum test scores to eliminate 98.5% of scholarship seekers, no matter how strong their other credentials. Under truth-in-advertising rules, the National Merit scholarships should properly be labeled ‘Your State’s Top Test-Takers Awards.’”
Over the past two decades, FairTest has led a national coalition of education reform, civil rights, and women’s organizations campaigning to overhaul NMSC’s eligibility rules. A FairTest-initiated gender bias complaint against the College Board and Educational Testing Service forced revisions in the scholarship-qualifying exam, which the companies cosponsor with NMSC. No changes, however, have been made to address other concerns about bias in the competition. “Upper-income white and Asians males still appear to receive the lion’s share of the awards,” Schaeffer said.
More recently the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) joined critics of NMSC’s process. But NACAC’s calls for reform were also rebuffed by NMSC. In the past several years, the University of California and University of Texas at Austin stopped sponsoring National Merit Scholarships.