Why Penn reversed its standardized testing policy

(The Daily Pennsylvanian) By Julia Bell —

Penn has good news for high schoolers who have already taken the SAT seven times: You’re no longer required to send all of your test scores to Penn.

Over the summer, Penn reversed its position on Score Choice, which required students to include all of their recorded standardized test scores on their application. Penn will now superscore ACT scores in addition to SAT scores.

These changes are a sharp difference in the University’s standardized testing policy, which used to be one of the most stringent in the nation. Now students are allowed to pick and choose which ACT or SAT scores they send to Penn, although according to its website, the University “encourage[s] students to submit their entire testing history.”

Penn opted out of allowing Score Choice along with a handful of other schools, such as Cornell, Rice, Stanford, Georgetown and Yale.

Score Choice has been criticized for favoring wealthier students. The Rice website claims Score Choice is an unfair practice because it “could disadvantage those students who cannot afford repeated testing or expensive test prep coaching.”

Score Choice has been praised for reducing students’ stress, however. 1986 Wharton graduate and Director of Admissions Counseling at One-Step College Counseling Laurie Weingarten said she was relieved Penn would allow students to discard bad anomalous scores.

She added that allowing Score Choice is the fairer option for students who decided to take the SAT rather than the ACT. Students may delete records of their ACT scores at any time, giving them greater autonomy to manipulate their test scores, but have only a few days after the SAT exam to request that a score be canceled.

“I really think students own their scores,” Weingarten said.

Dean of Admissions Eric Furda told The Daily Pennsylvanian the main consideration in deciding to allow Score Choice was ensuring fairness to students of all backgrounds.

Now that the SAT and ACT are closer in popularity, Score Choice is no longer as effective; this year, Penn reevaluated its testing policies in response to this change.

“One consideration we had was, are our policies are consistent across both tests?” Furda said.

Penn’s original policy, which didn’t allow Score Choice, was partially created to dissuade students from taking the SAT several times.

“It was at least a signal: don’t spend all your time taking the test,” Furda said. “So some students might think, ‘gee, do I really want them to know I took it seven times? Will that look bad?’”

However, a major problem with Score Choice was that it was not enforceable, Furda said. Up until this year, the University required students to submit all SAT test scores but had no way of knowing if students actually did so.

“[The new policy] just closed the loophole of not reporting your scores,” College sophomore Maggie Taylor said.

“We didn’t want to encourage behavior where one person is going to follow to the rules and one person is not — and reward that person,” Furda said.