Many thousands of students around the country are taking the SAT today, the last time the college entrance exam is being given in the 2011-12 school year. But get this: A special August test date has been set for “gifted and talented” kids who enroll in an expensive summer college prep program. Everybody else has to wait until October for the next opportunity to take the test.
The College Board, which owns the SAT, made a deal with the
National Society for the Gifted and Talented for a select group of students enrolled in a $4,500 program at Amherst College to take the SAT at no extra cost on Aug. 3. The program is an intensive three-week college preparatory program called University Prep.
When the Aug. 3 test date was recently announced, Matt Lisk, executive director of the SAT program, was quoted in a press release as saying: “We are very pleased to collaborate with NSGT University Prep on this initiative. The College Board and NSGT share a common goal of preparing students to succeed in college, and this unique summer SAT administration will help further our mission of connecting students to college success and opportunity.”
Hmm. Is it really the board’s mission to connect privileged kids to college success and opportunity?
The SAT is administered to the general public seven times a year — but never before has it been administered during the summer, when classes are out. Students have long asked the College Board to give it outside the academic year.
In fact, Lisk, in a statement released this week as the backlash against the August date began to grow, said that the Amherst College SAT date is actually a pilot program to evaluate “the feasibility” of a summer test date. It said in part:
“Because of the obvious differences in the logistics of testing in the summer due to school and faculty schedules, a pilot program such as this is the only sound way to work through any potential operational challenges before considering an expansion to millions of students and thousands of sites. This year’s pilot is being conducted in collaboration with the not-for-profit National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT). If successful, we will examine the expansion of the scope of the summer SAT administration to additional locations in the near future.”
Funny that the initial release didn’t say anything about a pilot program..
Joseph Soares is a Wake Forest University sociology professor and the author of “SAT Wars: The Case for Test-Optional College Admissions.” He has argued that the SAT is a poor predictor of achievement and is discriminatory, favoring the affluent who can afford test prep. His research on the subject led his school, along with nearly 850 other schools, to stop requiring applicants to provide college admissions test scores.
“The University Prep partnership between the College Board and a National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT) exposes the hypocrisy of the College Board’s rhetoric about the SAT being a fair way to democratize and expand access to higher education.
“In reality, this exclusive and unprecedented arrangement – open only to students whose families can pay $4,500 for a fast-lane test prep course in the comfort of an Amherst College summer camp – grants privilege to a small, test-score aristocracy.
“While summer camps on college campuses for “gifted” students are nothing new, students in this program can buy exclusive access to the SAT, which never has been offered outside the school year. This is a very expensive test-prep camp that is open only to students who, in many if not most cases, were pre-selected for gifted and talented programs by standardized tests such as the ETS’s ERB exams (which, like the SAT, correlate highly with family incomes).
“Participation in this program sends the message to these youths – and the entire nation – that they are special and deserve exclusive treatment in the form of an additional opportunity to take the SAT. These students are flying first class to the land of elite universities in August, while everyone else must fly economy in October.
“How this program makes for a level playing field for a fair measure of one’s academic merit is a mystery.”
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