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Collaboration Essential When Claiming Concordance

By Marten Roorda, CEO

Here’s an SAT word for you: equipercentile.

Even though the College Board promised to get rid of “SAT words” on the latest version of its test, if you want to understand your new SAT scores, you’d better know what “equipercentile” means.

Let’s back up a bit to see why.

The College Board just completed the overhaul of the SAT. The new test has been administered to students on two national test dates, most recently on May 7, 2016.

The trouble for students, schools, and colleges is that it’s difficult to compare scores from the old SAT to the new SAT. If you’re asking different questions using different rules and different scoring scales, how can you compare an old SAT score from last fall with a new SAT score from this spring?

The answer is: You need sophisticated statistics. This is where “equipercentile” comes in. In short, using the College Board’s own explanation, if 75 percent of students achieve a score of X on Test A and 75 percent achieve a score of Y on Test B, then the scores X and Y are considered “concorded.”

In fact, the College Board recently has been promoting its new “SAT Score Converter,” which, it says, allows you to compare scores on the new SAT with the old SAT and with the ACT® test. However, this mathematical makeover comes with several caveats the College Board didn’t tell you about.

For example, after past SAT revisions, such as that from 2006, concordance tables were created after more than a year’s worth of data were in. One reason for this is that students who test in the fall are more likely to be seniors than those who test in the spring. Moreover, students willing to take the first iteration of a test that has undergone a major overhaul are likely quite different from the typical student.

Therefore, to get a full-and-fair sample, it’s important to get at least a full year’s worth of data to compare. With data from only the March SAT available, it’s clear that the current sample stands a significant chance of being different from the whole.

In 2006, the College Board did wait for actual results to come in—results that changed the concordance calculations. Now, not only is the College Board not waiting to make pronouncements about its own tests, it’s asserting the concordance with the ACT—which is why we have skin in the game.

To arrive at the ACT concordance, the College Board appears to have used a technique called “chained concordance,” which makes links between the new SAT and the old SAT, and then from the old SAT to the ACT. It therefore claims to be able to interpret scores from the revamped SAT relative to the tried-and-true ACT.

Speaking for ACT, we’re not having it. And neither should you.

A lot has changed in education since 2006. Linking scores from a single administration of the new SAT to the old SAT, and then to the 2006 ACT, is a bridge too far.

In 2006, the College Board and ACT worked collaboratively under the aegis of the NCAA to produce the official ACT-SAT concordance table. That work represented the gold standard in concordance, and it remains the only concordance ACT recognizes.

Now, without collaborating with ACT, the College Board has taken it upon itself not only to describe what its scores mean, but what ACT’s scores mean. That’s different from 10 years ago, and different from the standard you should expect from a standardized testing agency.

Meaningful concordance is difficult to achieve, particularly when you have tests that are so different—not only the new SAT from the old SAT, but both SATs relative to the ACT, which, for example, continues to have a science test that the SAT lacks.

ACT cannot support or defend the use of any concordance produced by the College Board without our collaboration or the involvement of independent groups, and we strongly recommend against basing significant decisions—in admissions, course placement, accountability, and scholarships—on such an interim table. Those decisions require evidence and precision far beyond what has been offered to date.

ACT remains eager to engage the higher education community in conducting a rigorous concordance between scores on the ACT and the new SAT—when the data are available. That will be in about a year.

Until then, we urge you not to use the SAT Score Converter. And not to listen to messages suggesting the old SAT and the new SAT, or even the ACT, are comparable.

For me that’s unequivocal, to use another SAT word.