The College Board is under fire for offering a special SAT test date to students in an expensive summer program at Amherst College. (Patrick Reddy via AP)

Students in a three-week “intensive college preparatory program” at Amherst are scheduled to take the college entrance exam Aug. 3.

This marks “the first time that the country’s oldest and most widely used college entrance exam will be administered to students outside the standard academic year,” according to a statement from the National Society for the Gifted and Talented, sponsor of the program.

The summer session at Amherst, perhaps the nation’s premier liberal arts school, costs $4,500, or $300 a day and includes courses on test-taking strategies and skills. That likely means the students taking this specially administered SAT are both gifted and affluent — not a demographic sorely in need of extra help in college admissions — and will be able to utilize their newly honed test-taking skills immediately, rather than waiting to take the test in the fall. The $49 cost of taking the SAT is waived for students enrolled in the summer session.

Students who take the test in August cannot also take the test this month, College Board officials said, so that they cannot report an additional set of scores.   

In a critical missive, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing asked, “Do not College Board annual reports already demonstrate that students from the highest socio-economic backgrounds significantly out-score other demographic groups on the SAT?”

Research consistently shows, in fact, that affluence bestows several advantages on SAT test-takers, both direct and indirect. Students from wealthy families can afford expensive tutoring, which yields a proven boost on SAT scores. That’s on top of the inherent advantage enjoyed by students from families with high income and educational attainment, a lift that cuts across every aspect of education.

The publication “Inside Higher Ed” published a statement from Matt Lisk, executive director of the SAT. Lisk describes the August date as a “pilot” to begin weighing the viability of a permanent summer administration of the SAT. Students have long clamored for a chance to take the SAT in summer, outside the busy academic year.

Lisk said a small-scale pilot was the “only sound way to work through any potential operational challenges before considering an expansion to millions of students and thousands of sites.”

The initiative was not, however, described as a pilot in the April news release that announced it. That release, which appears to be a joint statement from the College Board and several other organizations, did not appear on the College Board Web site, the place where the organization would ordinarily announce pilot programs.

What do you think about the decision to offer the SAT at the summer program? Leave your thoughts in the comments section, below.