Cherylyn Harley LeBon

In recent months, there have been a growing number of reports of cheating on standardized tests. Last fall, 20 people were arrested in connection with an SAT cheating scandal at a Long Island high school, leading the local prosecutor to bring charges against the students. Just last month, an official with Claremont McKenna College in California resigned after admitting to inflating the SAT scores of incoming freshmen to boost the college's standing in the US News and World Report rankings.

We teach our children that cheating is never acceptable, but the sad reality, and the dirty little secret, is that some colleges and universities have been essentially cheating on test scores by manipulating their admission policies.

Whether it involves top athletes or wealthy international applicants, it happens more than we want to admit. The Claremont McKenna scandal also raises concerns about the influence and validity of college rankings, issues that present problems for US News and World Report and other college ranking publications like Princeton Review and Kiplinger.

The most disturbing form of legitimized cheating on college rankings is known as a test optional admissions policy. An increasing number of colleges give applicants the option of submitting or withholding their SAT scores as a part of their admissions package. Unfortunately, this practice leads to inflated average SAT scores among incoming freshmen because only the highest scorers are likely to submit their rest results, and higher SAT scores mean a higher ranking for the school.

Some experts argue that this trend ultimately harms students. In 2008, Jonathan Epstein, a researcher with the education consultancy Maguire Associates, studied the impact of test-optional policies in college admissions. Epstein discovered that test-optional policies at colleges and universities lead to artificially inflated average SAT scores. He also found that the policies further confused prospective students and families and was "not in the best interest of any institution or higher education in general."

Standardized tests have been used since the 1920's to measure the educational development of our children and to predict post secondary performance.

Colleges and universities have continued to rely on standardized tests to make admission decisions as they attempt to differentiate among students who will likely succeed and those who will be at risk or under perform.


Cherylyn Harley LeBon

Cherylyn Harley LeBon is a wife, mother, commentator, and former Senior Counsel on Senate Judiciary Committee.