In the last couple of days, testing agencies have come under the microscope. Both College Board (CB) and ACT are creating a bit of havoc with students, counselors, and universities.
Last Saturday was the first SAT test of the year, but not internationally. CB last year started to reduce the number of tests internationally but opened August in the US. The pressure on seniors to get testing completed before the beginning of the application season made the US a potential testing destination for Chinese and other international students who could afford the time and the money to test abroad. There is also the rumor, and certainly just a rumor, that certain test dates are easier than others. While there is no substantiated information to correlate this, the rumor still exists.
Back to the topic. Apparently, the test last Saturday was the same or had a number of the same, questions as the October 2017 international test. Almost as soon as the test was completed outcries of cheating spread through social media and the Internet. “It’s unfair,” “some students had an unfair advantage,” and more have come from a number of corners. CB, on the other hand, said little until Monday. Always keeping “test security” as their ace in the hand, CB had little to say other than scores will be released as usual.
What is so odd about this event is that CB is the one responsible for the use of the test. It should be hardly surprising to them that international students can and will take any test possible. From their own data, they should know that students traveled to the US last August. Also, they should know from past experience that their data – test questions are available through a variety of means. They should also know that whole tests are available, for the right price, to anyone willing to pay. This has been a point of contention for the last decade. Are students to blame? Not so sure.
And finally, the CB should know that recycling test questions is something that drives everyone nuts. Many critics of the SAT cannot understand why the CB insists on recycling test questions. The CB maintains that in order to have concordance between tests and to have viable scores, there need to be base questions to substantiate and validate each test. For some, that falls on deaf ears.
What is hard to understand is that the CB will not cancel the test from last Saturday? Are they worried about lost income? Saving face? Hard to tell, but what it has done is once again put the SAT in the crosshairs of universities. Anyone following the news over the last couple of months will notice that a number of schools have changed their testing requirements – either dropping the Writing section of the test or going completely test optional for students. The CB has put another nail in their own coffin.
ACT, on the other hand, is in the process of putting their test online. Yesterday one school spent over 4-hours and still could not sort out the process of getting their school up and running as a secure test site. The ACT has provided little if any information to high schools about the new testing procedures, the requirements of what it takes to be a test center and most concerning, the availability of the Act for this year’s seniors.
One would think that testing companies would be open and forthcoming to seek the guidance and assistance of its stakeholders – schools and colleges. Yet, they continue to hide behind “test security” as the primary and sole response. In the end, it leaves seniors concerned, anxious and rightly so. Testing is a center and focal point for many students looking to apply to college. They are the guinea pigs and subject to an unending series of abuse, misdirection, and confusion.
I am all for test security. It is important. But when will everyone wake up to the fact that this machine is broken. Colleges and Universities should be screaming from the rooftops! Students should also voice their opinions about the lack of validity of testing. While I am for test security, I no longer believe and have for some time, that standardized testing cannot measure up to what a student does every day in school. There must be a better way. Hopefully, if enough voices are raised, more schools will go test optional. For a list of all the schools which are test optional go to Fairtest.org. Students should be careful and check each school’s policies on test-optional qualifications.