The College Board was urged Monday to cancel a scheduled Aug. 3 administration of the SAT for a select group of ‘gifted and talented’ students enrolled in a $4,500 college prep program.
The request to the College Board, which owns the SAT, was sent by educational consultant Elizabeth A. Stone and Robert A. Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, known as FairTest.
The College Board recently made a deal with the Society for the Gifted and Talented for a select group of students enrolled in an expensive three-week summer program at Amherst College called University Prep. Eight days of the program are devoted to college admissions test prep, with students taking two practice exams.
Critics blasted the College Board for agreeing to this special arrangement in large part because the SAT is meant to be a democratizing college admissions exam that supposedly gives less advantaged students a chance to shine.
That’s when the executive director of the SAT program, Matt Lisk, said that the Aug. 3 administration is actually a “pilot.” He said that students have long asked that the SAT be given in the summer when school is out, and this is a chance to see if it works. Interestingly, the original announcement of the Aug. 3 SAT did not mention that it was a pilot program.
Why the College Board couldn’t have set up a pilot in, say, Anacostia in Washington D.C., and allowed disadvantaged students to take the SAT for free, is not really clear.
Stone wrote a letter to the College Board asking why it was giving the Aug. 3 test and that letter was publicized last week.
Here’s the text of the newest letter to the College Board from Stone and Schaeffer, asking that the Aug. 3 administration of the SAT be cancelled:
June 4, 2012
Gaston Caperton, President
Kathryn Juric, Vice President, SAT Program
The College Board
45 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10023-6917 via email
Dear Governor Caperton and Vice President Juric:
As advocates committed to equitable assessment and to the rights of test-takers we strongly urge the College Board to cancel plans to offer an official SAT on August 3, 2012 because participation has been limited to students enrolled in a special program, which costs $4,500 and is focused on test preparation.
Granting an opportunity to take the exam outside the regular academic year and after intense SAT coaching only to an economically elite segment of the college-going population is blatantly unfair, as the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the plan makes clear.
During the College Board’s reconsideration of this controversial initiative, there are several questions we believe must be addressed:
- Why did the College Board announce that it would report scores from the August 3 test as if they came from the regular June 2 SAT after pressure began to build on admissions offices to ignore scores from the special, mid-summer administration? Isn’t this labeling very misleading if not fraudulent?
- If the August 3 test is really a “pilot SAT administration,” as the College Board began claiming after the special exam became controversial, why was this never mentioned in any prior publicity, including news releases on the College Board’s own letterhead? And, if a “pilot” test were even necessary, given that the College Board offered a regular SAT in July for many years, would it not make sense to try out the summer exam at public schools, including those serving low-income students?
- The College Board website states, "short-term, for-profit test-prep courses don't increase test scores significantly" and "we do not endorse the use of expensive test-prep courses." Why then is the College Board partnering with The Princeton Review, a for-profit firm, to sponsor this short-term, $4,500 course, which includes eight days of test coaching classes plus two, full-scale practice exams? Does the College Board now admit that SAT preparation works?
- How is the College Board’s partnership in this elite, ultra-expensive summer program consistent with the organization’s claim that the SAT program has always been guided “by the principles of increasing access and making the college-going process broadly available for all students,” as Vice President Kathryn Juric stated in her written response to counselor Elizabeth Stone’s initial complaint? In what way does the program serve as the “democratizing force in education” that Ms. Juric calls the SAT.
Thank you for your consideration. Along with many admissions counselors, parents, teachers, test-takers and concerned citizens, we look forward to your response.
Elizabeth A. Stone, Ph.D. Educational Consultant
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