Claremont McKenna College, a small, prestigious California school, said Monday that for the past six years, it has submitted false SAT scores to publications like U.S. News & World Report that use the data in widely followed college rankings.
In a message e-mailed to college staff members and students, Claremont McKenna’s president since 1999, Pamela B. Gann, wrote that “a senior administrator” had taken sole responsibility for falsifying the scores, admitted doing so since 2005, and resigned his post.
The critical reading and math scores reported to U.S. News and others “were generally inflated by an average of 10-20 points each,” Ms. Gann wrote. For the class that entered the school in September 2010 — the most recent set of figures made public —the combined median score of 1,400 was reported as 1,410, she said, while the 75th percentile score of 1,480 was reported as 1,510.
This doesn't look like a lot, but note that Claremont McKenna is 9th among liberal arts colleges on the USN&WR list. In other words, it's right on the bubble of being Top Ten or not Top Ten, which is the kind of thing that means a lot for bragging rights at extended family dinners in San Jose and Seoul. So, every little bit helps.
Is this some unique scandal, or is it only news because the college got caught? Does USN&WR impose rigorous audits upon data submitted to them by colleges? I doubt it.
The president of Reed, that anti-affirmative action hippie college in Portland that is becoming a rare outpost of the old, weird America, has pointed out that lots of colleges game the USN&WR system by issuing anti-SAT rhetoric, denouncing the SAT as biased, so therefore they're going to allow students to apply without submitting SATs. This lets them let in athletes, quota kids, rich kids, and the like without it having any effect on the college's SAT scores in USN&WR. (The magazine routinely downgrades Reed in its rankings.)
By the way, I wrote an article about Pamela B. Gann and Claremont McKenna for The American Conservative in 2004: Hate Hoax.