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College admissions scandal proves 'the whole system's pay-to-play,' expert says

Published: Thursday, March 14, 2019 @ 4:42 AM

Dozens Indicted in College Admissions Bribery Case

More than 50 high-ranking coaches, business people and parents are facing federal charges, accused of cheating to get their kids into elite colleges.

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The U.S. attorney in Massachusetts is prosecuting the biggest admissions scandal in U.S. history with parents stopping at nothing to get their kids into top colleges. 

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Many of the charges stem from parents paying to make sure their kids' standardized test scores get them into those colleges.

Education experts told Boston's WFXT that this scandal is proof the admissions system is broken.

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”I think it perfectly encapsulates everything that’s wrong with the system," said Andre Green, executive director of the education nonprofit Fair Test.

For more than 30 years, they've been advocating for assessment reform policies like nationwide test-optional college admissions. 

"The stakes are so high, and the system is so focused on test scores that of course people are gonna cheat," Green said.

Fair Test says de-emphasizing standardized tests increases diversity and access to educational opportunities.

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As of January 2018, 1,000 four-year colleges and universities in 49 states are test-optional.

"If you are a person of means, you are already paying $1,000 for test prep. The fact that there’s even an industry for admissions counselors to help you package your kids to get into college speaks to the fact the whole system’s pay-to-play," Green said.

The implications of Operation Varsity Blues wasn't lost on test prep company Axiom Learning, either.

"Fascinated and not surprised. I think people can get wrapped up in the competitiveness of college admission," said Chris Fincher, vice president of Axiom in Boston.

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They agree standard testing isn't the best tool for college readiness, but it's their job to prep kids to do well on them and in college.

"It’s kind of a blunt instrument to solve a complex problem," Fincher said.

"I say, 'Take a breath, let’s take a practice test.' See where your kid stands, and figure out what’s going to be realistic for that student," Fincher said.

A study published last year by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that high school GPA was a better predictor of success in college GPA than test scores.