Bucknell Gets Caught With Faulty Data – Was it Intentional?

Bucknell University officials joined a short list of other university administrators who have been forced to admit that their ranking against other US colleges was inflated by falsified SAT scores. Nick Anderson of the Washington Post says that it’s not yet known what effect this admission will have on their current rankings in the well-known U. S. News & World Report annual list of colleges.

In a statement Friday on the Bucknell Web site, President John C. Bravman said aggregate SAT scores for incoming freshmen from 2006 through 2012 were overstated by 7 to 25 points on the 1600-point scale for the college admissions test in math and critical reading.

Bravman said that their new VP for Enrollment Management, who began his position last summer, realized that the test scores for this year’s freshman class were on average lower than records of past classes. He began an internal investigation and found that the averages did not match the raw scores on file. A small number of students’ low scores had been dropped from the average in order to push it up by a few points.

In a report to the University trustees, Bravman apologized on behalf of the administration:

“These numerical omissions, as relatively small as they were, violated the trust of every student, faculty member, staff member and Bucknellian they reached,” Bravman wrote in a statement addressed to the university’s board of trustees. “What matters is that important information conveyed on behalf of our university was inaccurate. On behalf of the entire university, I offer my sincerest apology to all Bucknellians for these violations of the integrity of Bucknell.”

Bucknell says that it does not know why the numbers were reported inaccurately, suggesting that deliberate manipulation may not have been the intent. The personnel who handled them have already left the University. The college also states that there was no one group of students singled out for omission, but instead they belonged to many different cohorts.

The school intends to prevent this error from happening in the future by appointing two independent offices to analyze student test scores. Both the Admissions Office and an institutional research staff will send reports to the President’s office, so that these reports can be compared for accuracy.

Last year, George Washington University faced a similar embarrassment when they admitted that they had reported to outside analysts that 78% of their incoming freshmen had graduated in the top 10% of their high school class. The actual number was 58%. The university said that the error happened due to an outdated and flawed reporting process. For now, GWU, previously ranked 51st on the US News list, is considered unranked.

Emory University, Tulane University and Claremont McKenna College faced similar problems with faulty data.

The US News & World Report is a standard way for students to help winnow and select from the hundreds of schools competing for their attention. US News uses a proprietary ranking formula that takes into consideration many aspects of a school’s performance. Bucknell University is currently ranked #32 on its list of national liberal arts colleges.

Located in Lewisburg, PA, Bucknell was founded in 1846. Its university is divided into College of Engineering, College of Arts & Sciences, and School of Management. It fields 25 sports teams in the NCAA Division I.

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