Huffpost Education

SAT Summer Testing Date: Critics Call August Exam Administration Unfair, Favoring Elite

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SUMMER SAT
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For the first time, the SAT will be offered during the summer when students are not distracted by schoolwork and have more time to devote to SAT prep. The hitch: the summer test date is offered to only those enrolled in a gifted students program that costs $4,500, the New York Times reports.

The College Board's decision to offer the Aug. 3 test, which will be administered to fewer than 50 students enrolled in the National Society for the Gifted and Talented SAT summer prep program at Amherst College, has been condemned by critics as unfair and biased toward elite students.

UPDATE 6/5/2012, 3:45 p.m.: The College Board has recently canceled the summer test date, citing concerns about equity and access to education. (UPDATE continues below)

In an email to The Huffington Post, California-based education consultant Elizabeth Stone said the new test date "contradicts all reasoning of fairness."

Fueling the allegations of bias is the College Board's decision to announce that results of the August test as June scores. This decision makes it impossible for college admissions officers to distinguish those who took the SAT during a relatively stress-free summer from those who had to take the SAT while simultaneously preparing for final exams at school.

"They clearly feel the need to 'cover-up' what they are doing," Stone wrote. "Are they saying colleges won’t even know? That it’s okay to tamper with the testing process and change the test dates on the official reports?"

In response, College Board Executive Director of Communications Kathleen Steinfeld noted in an email to HuffPost that not all SAT tests -- such as make-up SAT exams -- occur on the precise test date under which they are listed in score reports sent out to colleges.

Stone has teamed up with the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest) to publicly call on the College Board to cancel the summer test date.

Wake Forest Professor of Sociology Joseph Soares says that regardless of whether the August scores count under the June heading, the "exclusive and unprecedented" summer test reveals the "hypocrisy of the College Board's rhetoric about the SAT being a fair way to democratize and expand access to higher education," according to the Examiner.

The College Board decided to offer the August test after receiving numerous requests from parents, students, and educators to consider a summer exam administration, SAT Program Executive Director Matt Lisk said in a statement. The test is being launched as a pilot program "evaluating the operational feasibility of a summer administration date."

UPDATE (continued): In a formal statement that resolves days of heated controversy, the College Board announced earlier today that "it would be inappropriate for an official SAT administration" to occur in the summer" because "certain aspects of this specific program run counter to our mission of promoting equity and access." The statement concludes, "we will postpone piloting such an initiative until we can do so in a manner that better aligns with our mission and the students we serve."

See full text of the College Board's statement below:

When the National Society for the Gifted & Talented (NSGT) contacted members of the SAT® Program staff about offering the SAT through the NSGT University Prep summer program, it was viewed by those involved as an opportunity to evaluate the feasibility of a summer SAT administration, something that has long been requested by students and educators. Unfortunately, this initiative proceeded without proper consideration of whether all aspects of the program were aligned with our mission.

Given what senior management has learned in the past few days, we informed NSGT earlier today that it would be inappropriate for an official SAT administration to take place at the conclusion of the University Prep program. The College Board continues to support the NSGT’s mission to provide educational opportunities for gifted and talented youth of all backgrounds. However, certain aspects of this specific program run counter to our mission of promoting equity and access, as well as to our beliefs about SAT performance. The SAT was created to democratize access to education, and innumerable third-party studies have demonstrated that SAT performance is directly related to the type and rigor of course work pursued by students during high school. To send any other message, even inadvertently, is contradictory to our beliefs and decades of SAT performance data.

The College Board was founded more than a century ago to promote access to and equity in education, and we are proud of the role our programs and services have played in helping students aspire to — and succeed in — college. As part of our mission, we regularly evaluate opportunities designed to increase college readiness and to help ensure that more students succeed in college. Whether opening additional SAT test centers in high-need urban and rural areas or introducing the rapidly expanding SAT School Day initiative that enables students to test in their home school on a weekday morning, our goal has always been to expand access to higher education for all students.

While we are still very much committed to exploring the concept of a summer administration, we will postpone piloting such an initiative until we can do so in a manner that better aligns with our mission and the students we serve. Steps also are being taken internally to ensure that future initiatives receive the appropriate level of senior management review.

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Filed by Gregory Kristof