Inflating the SAT Scores for Rankings and Hoping No One Notices

Since 2005, Claremont McKenna, ranked #9 on U.S. News & World Report’s best liberal arts colleges in the country, has been lopping on a few points here and there to its entering students’ average SAT score before reporting those numbers to U.S. News & World report and rating organizations such as the Princeton Review. For example, in 2010, its combined median score was reported as 1410, rather than its actual 1400. And its 75th percentile was reported at 1510, when it was, in reality, 1480.

Oops! Turns out the academic world is darn near as competitive as Wall Street when it comes to rankings and ratings. In fact, so competitive are those of the ivory tower that they used the same strategies: Cook the books and hope no one notices.

Claremont McKenna’s vice president and dean of admissions has been removed from his job title on the college website. President Pamela B. Gann explained the problem and concluded, “As an institution of higher education with a deep and consistent commitment to the integrity of our academic activities, and particularly, our reporting of institutional data, we take this situation very seriously.”

Indeed. Now, if we could just get the rankings and ratings organizations to respond with appropriate outrage. From Robert Franek of the Princeton Review, we have these thoughts, “That is a pretty mild difference in a point score. That said, 10 points, 20 points to a student that isn’t getting that score on the SAT could be an important distinction.” Yes, but even without the numbers difference, it is an important distinction. Claremont McKenna was not honest, and students who rely on reviews when such an obvious flaw is on the table deserve whatever fate awaits them at an institution that would pull a statistical stunt (however it may have impacted the rankings/ratings). Oh, and Mr. Franek finished with a flourish, “I feel like so many schools have a very clear obligation to college-bound students to report this information honestly.” Actually, it would be all schools, not just “so many,” and the reporting of correct data is not just a “clear obligation,” it is an ethical responsibility.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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