The College Board’s new online system to deliver test scores has, to be charitable, not gone as well as planned, with delays and other complications with PSAT/NMSQT results angering counselors and students and raising questions about how well it will work when the new SAT is soon unveiled.

The PSAT/NMSQT is the Preliminary SAT, the test that mostly sophomores and juniors take as a practice for the SAT and that provides scores used to qualify students for the National Merit Scholarship program. In October, more than 4 million students took the PSAT. Scores were expected by the end of the year, but the College Board released them only a week ago, about a month late. Sandra Riley, vice president for communications at the College Board, said  the delay was caused by a new online system created to accommodate scoring reports for the newly designed SAT debuting in March.

Riley and other College Board officials say that scores are available online but that new protocols for accessing them have confused some counselors and students. But some say that scores do not seem to be available to some schools, that instructions for obtaining those that are available are confusing and that it can be difficult getting help from College Board representatives. Two routine outages on all College Board websites, one last week and one this week (from Tuesday at 6 p.m. Eastern through 7 a.m. Wednesday) are making it only more difficult for those still trying to get their scores.

Stacy Caldwell, vice president for the SAT and PSAT/NMSQT, said in an interview that the College Board had sent repeated emails to counselors to explain the new access rules and held many workshops as well as webinars but that “in hindsight” could have labeled data files better and made access easier.

As of Thursday, more than 1.1 million students have seen their online PSAT score reports, Riley said. That’s about a quarter of the students who took the test in October.

A new discussion thread on College Confidential has this title “No PSAT scores yet? Commiserate here!”

Mary Germain, an upstate New York parent, said the scores are still not available at her child’s school. She said in an e-mail: ” I would not have signed up my child for this test if I knew that the College Board was this incompetent.” One parent in Howard County, Md., wrote in an email that she is concerned that her child will now have to wait until the end of January when the paper score reports are supposed to be made. The email said: “Emphasis on the “supposed to be” … since the College Board has failed to meet every deadline so far.”

Jim Jump, academic dean and director of guidance at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond explained on his Ethical College Admissions blog why so many counselors have complained on the discussion board of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC):

It wasn’t just the fact that the test scores were a month late or the difficulty in accessing scores whether you are a student or a counselor. For students it was a five-step process, and at the end of step five some students were told that they hadn’t taken any College Board assessments.
For counselors the only thing more difficult than accessing the score reports was figuring out what the scores meant.  Over the weekend I went on the College Board website looking for explanatory information.  After getting my User Name and Password straight (not the College Board’s fault), I found a download that looked promising, but when I clicked on it I got not the PDF but the previous page.

Meanwhile, Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, FairTest, a national nonprofit organization that works to curb the abuse and misuse of standardized tests and that is a consistent critic of the College Board, said in an email:

I’ve been reading the NACAC listserv for more than two decades and have never seen such intense anger about the College Board as the past few months. Every time I post an update about additional schools going test-optional, I get a spate of private emails from NACAC members applauding the trend.

Other points of complaint have included:

  • A fiasco with the the June 6 SAT test, in which the College Board was forced to drop two sections of the test because of printing errors in instruction booklets. This led to questions among students and parents about whether the final test results could legitimately be compared with previous SATs. The College Board said they could, though test prep experts said it was unclear.
  • Ongoing, widespread cheating on the SAT in Asian countries, which is enabled because the College Board reuses tests previously administered in the United States and test prep companies in Asia have figured out how to game the system and prepare students.
  • Repeated delays in reporting SAT scores to colleges from fall testing, resulting in some applicants not making early application deadlines