This story was first published as a post by a parent in our Paying for College 101 Facebook community. It’s been edited for clarity and flow.
Editor’s Note: Some schools include SAT and ACT scores on transcripts so the student doesn’t have to pay SAT or ACT to send their scores to the colleges they are applying to. The following story is from a parent who wanted these scores removed before her student applied to a test-optional college. The writer’s name has been omitted for privacy.
I’m a parent who went up against my school board to have our ACT scores removed from our transcripts.
Why Compulsory Test Scores on Transcripts Should Be Removed
I wanted his test scores removed because once college admissions counselors see the test scores, they can’t unsee it. While the college may be test-optional, once the admissions officer sees the score, it does influence their decision, even if they try not to let it.
Since my son didn’t score well on his ACT, I didn’t want the colleges to see his scores. But, unfortunately, our guidance counselor had told me it was compulsory to have them on; I couldn’t opt to remove them, and basically, I had to trust the colleges “wouldn’t look at them.” She went as far as saying that the school did not even have the software to remove them.
How I Fought to Have the System Changed
After speaking to the Paying for College 101 Facebook group and finding out that other Ohio schools were not reporting, I challenged the school. I emailed the head of the school board, but I also CC’d the principal, the vice principal, and every board member.
Less than a week later I got a call from the principal herself saying that the guidance counselor could remove the scores and was choosing not to (or didn’t know how and couldn’t be bothered learning) but she has since been shown. So there’s now no reason for her to decline requests to remove scores.
What I Said in the Letter to the School Board
My letter got the desired result, so I’m sharing what I wrote to help others form their own letters.
Hello, I hope this email finds you well.
I am writing to you today to discuss students’ privacy regarding their test scores on transcripts.
I have spoken to Mrs. X, who confirmed that ACT scores are automatically put on the senior transcript when sent to higher education facilities, such as colleges and universities. They are unable to be removed, even when requested. There are several issues with this that I would like to point out in this email.
First and foremost, this is a breach of FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act).
Under FERPA, it is up to the parent’s discretion what information is shared with higher education institutes. I do not wish for my son’s test scores (ACT in this instance) to be shared. I called the school to have these removed and was told it was not possible. This school is one of the only districts that forces test scores on students’ transcripts.
Since COVID, many changes have been made to the college admissions process. One of those changes is that many schools are now “test optional.” This means you do not need to include a copy of your ACT/SAT/PSAT in your application to be considered. Being a test-optional institution allows students to be seen on a more authentic level rather than just a score on a piece of paper.
Secondly, not only is transcript test reporting a legal issue, but it’s also a moral issue. Compulsory test scores on transcripts severely harm kids in the application process and stop them from having fair access to higher education.
I was listening to a podcast from College Admissions Officers—in several episodes, they state that if a student applied “test-optional” but the college can see those scores, they will use them in their admissions decision.
The podcast, Inside the Admissions Office, and the episode, “What a NYU Admissions Officer Wants from Applicants,” explains how the colleges use test scores negatively when seen, even if the student applied “test-optional” and the only way to stop the scores from being used is not to send them. The admissions officer stresses that they cannot unsee test scores, even if they’re supposed to.
I have contacted several schools around Ohio that do not have test scores viewable on transcripts UNLESS the parent has outright given permission to include them. Having test scores shown on transcripts is potentially hurting the kids of our school and is a breach of privacy for the students.
I appreciate your consideration on this matter. I look forward to your response.
How You Can Fight for Change at Your Child’s School
If your school won’t remove test scores from transcripts, take it to the top. It’s so unfair that some schools don’t do this as standard. You may have a fight on your hands or a guidance counselor who refuses and needs pressure from higher up. But either way, you can do something.
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