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Answer Sheet
Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 06/06/2012

How College Board can move past SAT blunder

Once it became widely known that the College Board was allowing students who paid $4,500 for a special summer college prep program to take the SAT in August when nobody else could, it was only a matter of time before the plan collapsed. That’s what happened today when the board called off the heavily criticized Aug. 3 SAT, admitting it had made a big mistake.

The test was initially announced in April as a special deal that the National Society for the Gifted and Talented made with the College Board for kids in an intensive three-week program called University Prep at Amherst College.

But in just the last week the arrangement grabbed public attention when critics accused the College Board of violating the SAT’s mission, which is to extend opportunity for college to less advantaged students. An SAT official tried to quell the criticism by saying it was only a pilot program to see if it was possible to give the SAT in the summer, as many people have sought for years.

Then on Tuesday, the College Board was urged to cancel the Aug. 3 by college counselor Elizabeth Stone and the Center for Fair & Open Testing, and today the College Board issued a release saying that it would do so.

A statement released by the College Board (see below) acknowledged that the plan to allow the Aug. 3 had been made
“without proper consideration of whether all aspects of the program were aligned with our mission.”

The statement says that the College Board would continue to consider whether the SAT can be given in the summer.

And this is how the College Board can make some lemonade out of the lemons it produced with this episode. It could quickly set several pilot programs in which students from every socioeconomic background can take the test in the summer in different places around the country.

That would take over the news of this blunder and actually do some good in the process.

Here’s the College Board’s full statement:

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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By  |  12:15 PM ET, 06/06/2012

 
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