The College Board announced a new policy that will give high school students more choice when sending their SAT scores to universities, igniting a debate about the integrity and fairness of the ubiquitous and often-maligned test.

Beginning in March 2009, students who have taken the SAT I more than once will be able to report only their best single-sitting scores to universities, and those who have taken multiple SAT II tests may choose to send specific subject test results. According to the College Board Web site, however, students will need to follow the requirements of each university they apply to, since some universities, including Georgetown, will not be accepting this Score Choice policy and will demand all test scores that a student has.

The policy is a significant departure from the current requirement for students to send all reported SAT I and SAT II results to colleges.

The College Board has stated on its Web site that the new option is designed to benefit students who underperform on tests due to anxiety or other unexpected factors.

“[Score Choice] is designed to reduce student stress and improve the test-day experience,” according to the College Board Web site.

Several colleges, including Harvard University and the University of Chicago, have announced their support for the new procedure.

“Score Choice will help defuse some of the pressure and give students a sense that not everything is riding on the tests, which really is the case,” said William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions at Harvard University, in an interview with The New York Times.

Still, not all schools will accept applications from students who chose to use the option provided by Score Choice.

Charles Deacon, dean of undergraduate admissions at Georgetown, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that Georgetown will ask students for all of their standardized tests scores. He also believes that this policy creates a morality question for prospective students.

“There’s a moral dilemma too. If a student applies online through College Board, a pop up informs [them] if a university requires all the scores,” he said. “The students can violate the policy by selecting a few scores and sending them anyway. College Board does not police the policy. Georgetown can’t see if a student does send only select score, but we may find out later and it would have a negative impact on the student’s application.”

Stanford University stressed that its admissions officers needed to see all test scores to ensure the tests’ fairness.

“We want to discourage students from taking the SAT more than once or twice and believe that programs like Score Choice encourage applicants with resources to take the SAT excessively to improve their scores,” Stanford Director of Admissions Shawn Abbott told The Stanford Daily.

The College Board used a policy similar to Score Choice for SAT II scores from 1993 to 2002 but decided to terminate the process and began requiring students to submit all of their subject test results to universities. At the time, The New York Times stated that the College Board claimed that the policy disadvantaged minorities and impoverished test takers who could not afford to continually retake the tests, which cost approximately $45 per sitting.

Critics charge that Score Choice is an attempt to compete with the increasing popularity of the ACT, which offers test takers the ability to send scores from specific test dates. The Washington Post reports that while the total number of high school students taking the SAT has increased by 30 percent in the last 10 years, the ACT has seen a surge of 43 percent and is increasingly seen as a viable alternative to the SAT nationwide.

Others have renewed concerns that Score Choice unfairly discriminates against low-income test takers who cannot afford as many chances at the SAT as wealthier students. According to the College Board Web site, fee waivers are available for only two SAT I administrations and a maximum of six SAT II subject tests.

Deacon believes that Score Choice favors the wealthy even more than before.

“The policy will further advantage the already advantaged — those with the money to take the tests multiple times,” he said.

“After thinking about it and discussing it with my friends, many of whom are on financial aid, we recognized that this new policy will widen the gap between the rich and the poor and will not actually help us,” said Ian Chan, a junior at Choate Rosemary Hall in an editorial for his school paper, The Bulletin. “Knowing that Score Choice is mainly a money-making scheme by the College Board and that it is disadvantaging so many of my money-strapped friends, I am utterly disgusted.”

– HOYA Staff Writer and Editorial Board member David Krone contributed to this report.

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