For two weeks, officials from the College Board, UPS and a Northern Virginia high school have been searching from Ashburn to Austin for a white box that contained the answer sheets — and possibly the college futures — of 263 teens who took the SATs last month.
On Monday morning, the box was located not far from where the tests were taken: on a cart in the shipping area of Broad Run High School.
The discovery left students breathing a collective sigh of relief, but it also raised questions about how the box could have been sitting at the school for nearly a month without being noticed.
“This is totally our fault,” said Loudoun County schools spokesman Wayde Byard. He apologized to UPS, the College Board and Educational Testing Service, which administers and scores the exam.
The students whose answers were lost took the exam at Broad Run High School on May 2, a Saturday. According to Byard, the student answer sheets were packaged in a pre-labeled white shipping box — provided by the College Board, which owns the SAT — with a label addressed for Austin. The exam booklets were packed separately into four brown pre-labeled boxes bound for New Jersey.
Surveillance footage of the shipping area — a room that doubles as a teacher’s lounge — showed the boxes being wheeled in at 9 a.m. the following Monday. They then disappear from the camera’s view. About six hours later, another camera shows a UPS employee wheeling a cart out the high school’s front entrance with four brown boxes and a white box that appeared to be the one containing the tests.
As it turns out, the white box may never have left the shipping area. It was found on the bottom of a cart about 10 feet from the one that was wheeled out that day behind some papers, Byard said. He said the school does not have a formal system for tracking boxes for shipment but is considering a change.
The box was discovered “intact and secure,” the College Board said in a statement. Byard said an ETS representative was with school staff when the box was found and personally delivered it to an ETS facility in Princeton, N.J., where it will be checked for irregularities before the tests are scored. The College Board did not know when the scores would be available.
Evan Miles, 16, a junior at Broad Run, was among those whose scores were missing. He was deeply relieved at the news, because he thought he had finally bested his first two SAT scores and because the June 20 retest would have interrupted his summer travel plans.
“It’s a great relief knowing that I could actually have those days of my summer,” he said. At the same time, he was baffled why school officials could not find the box for two weeks. “I was definitely frustrated about that, that the actual box was in the high school when I was hearing different answers of where it might be.”