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Selection Bias in College Admissions Test Scores

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  • Melissa Clark
  • Jesse Rothstein
  • Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Abstract

Data from the two leading college admissions tests—the SAT and the ACT—can provide a valuable measure of student achievement, but bias resulting from the nonrepresentativeness of test takers is an important concern. The authors take advantage of a policy reform in Illinois that made the ACT a graduation requirement to identify the within- and across-school selectivity of ACT takers. Estimates based on the Illinois policy change indicate substantial positive selection into test participation both across and within schools—at higher-achieving schools, participation rates are higher; within schools, higher-achieving students are more likely to take the test. Despite this, school-level averages of observed admissions test scores are extremely highly correlated with average latent scores. As a result, in most contexts the use of observed mean test scores in place of latent means understates the degree of between-school variation in average achievement but is otherwise unlikely to lead to misleading conclusions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Mathematica Policy Research in its series Mathematica Policy Research Reports with number 5535.

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Date of creation: 06 Jan 2007
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Handle: RePEc:mpr:mprres:5535

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Postal: Mathematica Policy Research P.O. Box 2393 Princeton, NJ 08543-2393 Attn: Communications
Fax: (609) 799-0005
Web page: http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/
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Keywords: College; Test Scores; Education;

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References

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  1. Dynarski, Mark, 1987. "The Scholastic Aptitude Test: Participation and performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 263-273, June.
  2. Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 1985. "Estimation and Inference in Two-Step Econometric Models," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 3(4), pages 370-79, October.
  3. Dynarski, Mark & Gleason, Philip, 1993. "Using scholastic aptitude test scores as indicators of state educational performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 203-211, September.
  4. Katharine G. Abraham & Melissa A. Clark, 2003. "Financial Aid and Students' College Decisions: Evidence from the District of Columbia's Tuition Assistance Grant Program," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 3675, Mathematica Policy Research.
  5. Heckman, James J, 1979. "Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(1), pages 153-61, January.
  6. Eric A. Hanushek & Lori L. Taylor, 1990. "Alternative Assessments of the Performance of Schools: Measurement of State Variations in Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(2), pages 179-201.
  7. Jacob L. Vigdor & Charles T. Clotfelter, 2003. "Retaking the SAT," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(1).
  8. Gronau, Reuben, 1974. "Wage Comparisons-A Selectivity Bias," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1119-43, Nov.-Dec..
  9. Jesse M. Rothstein, 2006. "Good Principals or Good Peers? Parental Valuation of School Characteristics, Tiebout Equilibrium, and the Incentive Effects of Competition among Jurisdictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1333-1350, September.
  10. Card, David & Payne, A. Abigail, 2002. "School finance reform, the distribution of school spending, and the distribution of student test scores," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 49-82, January.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. David Card & Jesse Rothstein, 2005. "Racial Segregation and the Black-White Test Score Gap," Working Papers 879, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. Jesse M. Rothstein, 2006. "Good Principals or Good Peers? Parental Valuation of School Characteristics, Tiebout Equilibrium, and the Incentive Effects of Competition among Jurisdictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1333-1350, September.
  3. Sarena F. Goodman, 2013. "Learning from the test: raising selective college enrollment by providing information," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2013-69, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).

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