Scores for the June 6 SAT are now out, and a controversy that erupted over the botched administration of the college admissions exam is only escalating. To wit: Class-action lawsuits have been filed in three states, the reliability and fairness of the results are being questioned, some students who want to accept the College Board’s offer to retake the SAT for free on Oct. 3 can’t because they are taking SAT Subject tests on the same day, and calls are being made for the entire test to be made public.
For those who haven’t followed the story: The College Board, which owns the SAT, was forced to discard two of 10 sections of the SAT administered June 6 — or 22 percent of the test — because of printing errors on test booklets. Students discovered that the time allotted for one section, the last reading section, said 25 minutes rather than the 20 minutes that they were supposed to have. Because of the way the test is administered, some students were taking the final math section at the same time as some were taking the reading section with the misprinted timing instruction, and some test-takers were allowed more time than others by exam proctors.
The College Board’s solution was to toss out two sections and offer any June 6 test-taker a chance to retake the test at its next administration, on Oct. 3, 2015, for free. College Board officials have said students’ scores would be as reliable as if the entire test had been graded because the SAT is designed to collect enough information even if the entire test is not scored.
Many students aren’t buying the College Board’s explanation. According to the Courthouse News Service, three class-action lawsuits have been filed against the College Board and the Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT, seeking a test fee refund as well as money for damages. The lawsuits were filed in Trenton, N.J., Jacksonville, Fla., and Long Island, N.Y. Said the New Jersey lawsuit:
Examinees … rely on the constancy and reliability of the SAT score as a solid, unquestioned indicator of relative ability. Instead, the June 6th test examinees’ scores will be “the SAT with the asterisk.”
Zach Goldberg, media director for the College Board, said in an e-mail that the College Board is certain that it is providing “valid and reliable scores” to students. He said:
To make this determination, we conducted a comprehensive review and statistical analysis with three important components:
First, the scores for the shorter test were shown to be sufficiently reliable – meaning they show technical consistency over repeated testings.
Second, the equating process was not affected by the error. Equating is a statistical procedure that is conducted to ensure that different versions of a test are of comparable difficulty.
Finally, the scored sections had the same distribution of content and skills as the full-length test and therefore is reflective of the overall SAT content specifications.
We have consistently communicated with College Board higher education members since learning of the misprint in the June 6 SAT administration book. Admission directors from across the country have told us they have full confidence in those scores and will view them just like scores from any other SAT administration. They want students to be assured of the integrity of their scores.
We take our responsibility to students very seriously, and we appreciate their patience as we’ve worked to deliver to institutions scores that are valid and reliable.
But some testing experts are calling for more disclosure from the College Board. Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest, is calling for the College Board to:
*Offer a special summer retest for students who need trustworthy scores before October 22. That’s the date when results from the free October SAT retest would be released) in order to qualify for athletic eligibility, early action application deadlines, “merit” scholarships, etc. or to avoid a conflict with SAT Subject Tests also scheduled for October 3.
*Cancel scores and refund all registration fees from the June 6 SAT to those who neither trust the reported scores nor want to retake the test.
*Rebate a portion of the registration fee to all test-takers because less than 80 percent of all the questions they paid for are being scored.
*Provide any studies and/or data it has to support the claim that the June 6 SAT scores are valid and reliable to independent experts for review.
Larry Krieger, a respected test-prep expert who has been preparing thousands of students to take the SAT and PSAT for nearly 25 years, said the College Board should release the entire June 6 test so people can see for themselves how the test was scored. A fully released SAT includes four components:
All of the questions
Answer to the questions
The Level of Difficulty of each question on a scale of 1 – 5
The Scoring Scale for Critical Reading, Math, and Writing
I believe that the College Board may be trying to hide two key things. First, having the Level of Difficulty of each question will enable the public to test the College Board’s contention that the critical reading and math sections are co-equal. An analysis of previously released SATs reveals that the three sections are sometimes co-equal. However, there have been tests in which Sections 8 and 9 are either easier or harder than the other two sections. If Sections 8 or 9 on the June SAT were easier or harder than the other sections this would undermine the College Board’s contention that the sections are co-equal.
Second, the full scale would enable to the public to see if the College Board used a PSAT scale in place of an SAT scale. There is preliminary evidence that this is in fact what happened. Students on College Confidential are reporting that on the Math a -1 = 760 and a -2 = 730. It is also possible that -1 on CR = 780. We don’t know this for sure. However, if it is true, then almost 500,000 students paid the CB $52.50 for an SAT and instead received a $14.00 PSAT. In any other business the June SAT would be called a defective product and the consumers would be entitled to some compensation.
The College Board can easily refute these points by simply releasing the test.
The College Board’s Goldberg, asked if the June 6 test would be released in full, said in an e-mail:
The U.S. administrations for which questions are available through our Question-and-Answer Service are October, January and May. This service is not available for June in any year.
Asked what harm it would do to release the June test given that the SAT is being completely revamped next year, he wrote:
We have a longstanding national policy to release, each year, tests and associated information from the October, January and May SAT administrations. We do this to provide our Question-and-Answer Service to students on a consistent schedule while retaining some test forms for SAT research and practice resources. This way, students who register for a test date know whether this service will be offered.
One student wrote on the College Confidential Web site:
These scores are NOT accurate. How do I know?
First time I took the SATs; no prep:
780 CR, 780 W, 650 M
780 CR, 780 W, 670 M
I got the same scores in reading and writing both times.
700 CR, 680 W, 680 M
That’s a hundred point difference in writing and an eighty point difference in reading after two tests where I got the same score twice. Whatever “statistical analysis” CB did for this test…they did it wrong. This is the best math score I’ve had but I’m not sending this one in at all. Writing shouldn’t have even been affected, but… I’m shocked right now. Nearly a 200 point drop in a composite I’ve consistently gotten? Guys, they messed up this SAT. I know it.