Yudof joins panel to develop, oversee national college placement tests

by Sam Kean

University President Mark Yudof’s influence will soon be felt by students across the country.
Yudof was named to the board of trustees at the Education Testing Service, the organization responsible for developing the Scholastic Aptitude Test and Graduate Record Examination.
The New Jersey-based ETS is the world’s largest testing service. In addition to tests such as the SAT and GRE, the service develops Advanced Placement tests. It also researches the effectiveness of its tests by assessing student progress and predicting students’ future academic successes.
As a board member Yudof will help set the strategic direction and monitor the mission for ETS, said Kurt Landgraf, president and CEO of ETS.
“(Yudof’s) knowledge of higher education as a major university president is very important to us, especially his experience and leadership in a research university like the University of Minnesota,” Landgraf said.
He added that Yudof’s long-standing interest in K-12 public education and knowledge of that education system is an important addition to the board.
ETS has traditionally been involved in providing assessments such as the SAT and PSAT to students entering college. The company is expanding into assessing the academic progress of K-12 students.
Another reason ETS selected Yudof, Landgraf said, was his research in legal issues of education and his interest in providing all students equal access to quality education, regardless of their race or socio-economic status.
Yudof said joining ETS was attractive because the organization is “rethinking their mission,” in terms of ensuring tests measure progress of K-12 and college students fairly. Critics have attacked standardized tests, saying the tests have biases.
Yudof has some prior experience with standardized tests, including a textbook he wrote on education policy. The appointment is an extension of his interest.
Another motivation for Yudof to join the testing service was the opportunity to examine University admissions policies — specifically whether the University is over-reliant or under-reliant on student test scores.
Test scores are a “moderately good predictor” of student success, he said, but he stressed leadership and diversity should be taken into account in college admissions as well.
Having Yudof on the board at ETS will benefit both the University and ETS, said Wayne Sigler, director of admissions.
“It’s great to have a person of President Yudof’s stature representing us and being able to represent the interest of higher educational organizations like the University of Minnesota,” Sigler said.
He added that Yudof can offer advice and guidance to ETS from his past experiences as a law school professor and dean.
Yudof will serve for six years on the 17-member board, according to ETS. He replaces Harold Shapiro, president of Princeton University.
“I think it’s a major win-win. ETS wins, and I think Minnesota wins,” Sigler said. “I think they’re lucky to get him.”