From Memberanda, Spring 2013
The outreach team has logged many hours on the road, visiting with the admission and placement offices of our member schools. Our goal is to ensure that staff members are aware of the critical changes that have been made to the SSAT, including new writing prompts, questions, norms, and the availability of our new Elementary Level test.
As we spoke with schools about these changes, we realized that in many admission offices, few readers were provided with official training on reading, interpreting, and analyzing the SSAT score report. Often, it seemed as if each person reading the score report had his/her own notions about what parts of the report had the most relevance. We found in many instances that only the director of admission knew how to identify key information and trends about the applicants as a group. However, when we spoke to department staff members, there were variations in report interpretation and differing levels of knowledge about how to utilize score reports to help with admission decisions and enrollment management.
Given the fact that score reports had a different look this year, we realized it was the perfect time to offer training sessions at our member schools. Schools were eager to take us up on the offer and each session was tailored to each school’s admission committee needs. The majority of sessions, which took place in schools such as Westover School, Lawrenceville, Loomis Chaffee, and St. Paul’s School, were intimate experiences, with only members of the admission office on hand. Phillips Exeter Academy, Taft School, Choate Rosemary Hall, and others took it a step further and invited teaching faculty as well as admission officers, increasing our class sizes to more than 20 per session.
Our goal was simple: to teach admission committees how to analyze the SSAT score report, understand its significance within the total student application, and, most importantly, identify the information it can offer about a student and his/her performance in relation to a school’s applicant pool. For those schools for which The Enrollment Management Association has completed data studies, we also sought to identify and clarify which score subsection has been shown to be most indicative of success at that school.
Our sessions reviewed the pieces of a score report, provided some context for the percentile norms and school-specific data, and provided a chance to dispel myths about the tests and scores. "Regardless of how long you’ve been working in admission, there is always something new to learn," said Taft School’s Peter Frew. "Our team took great tools from our session on score reports. It was an eye-opening experience for us."
Many of the sessions began with the admission director stating that the SSAT is only a small piece of the admission process, and that admission is based on the student as a whole, not just a test score. The Enrollment Management Association also believes in the holistic reading of the student application file, and that the SSAT score is a critical piece of the process. The score is meant to offer insight about applicants, providing what is sometimes the only standardized piece of information that is consistent in each file among a diverse group of candidates. Our intention is to provide schools the opportunity to create and maintain a data-driven admission® and enrollment process. Following the sessions, we consistently heard that this "small piece" of the admission process became a "critical piece," once readers learned exactly how the data on a score report can assist the admission committee in ensuring that admitted students find a path to success at their schools.
"The timing of Outreach Director Kate Auger-Campbell’s visit to Westover to discuss the changes to the SSAT tests and score reports couldn’t have come at a better time," said the admission team at Westover. "In our first admission committee meeting later that same day, we were able to help our fellow committee members better understand the meanings of all the scores reported, not just the SSAT percentile. This allowed us to use the SSAT score reports to better evaluate our applicants’ overall potential. Not only did Kate help us to use these scores more effectively, but she also shared anecdotes from the world of admission, so we could put what we were learning about in context. Overall, this was an extremely informative and helpful meeting."
Setting aside time to ensure that your admission committee is well versed in all pieces of the student application should be a priority, and offering these sessions on campus can be a cost-effective way to learn as a team. As Chris Bartlett, Proctor Academy, commented after a training session, "It was like attending a mini professional development conference without having to go anywhere." If your office would like to benefit from this valuable training presentation, please reach out to your The Enrollment Management Association director of outreach to schedule a session today.